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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – In this week’s Mentoring Matters we go up to Children’s Harbor in Broward County.
It’s a special place where children in the foster care system get the guidance and care they need to keep their lives running as smoothly as possible.
That includes help with school work, as life coach Justin Cummins spends his time.
Cummins helps guide several teenagers through high school, making sure they are successful young adults. One of those young men Justin helps is 14-year old Wonzic Paul.
“Mom and dad isn’t here right now,” the teenager explains, thrust into the foster care system last summer.
“Mr. Justin, he’s awesome,” Wonzic says, smiling.
The two meet once a week and go over Wonzic’s school assignments.
“At first, I thought I didn’t really need it,” says the teen. “But then I got used to it and came to liking it. I don’t know why he’s awesome. You know, how there is like certain foods that taste good, but you don’t know why they taste good. It’s like that.”
The guidance is part of Children’s Harbor’s “Grounded for Life” program.
While Wonzic doesn’t live there, other teens like him do. Children’s Harbor is a welfare organization dedicated to three specific goals: keeping sibling’s together while in foster care, strengthening local families who are in crisis and guiding teens as they age out of foster care.
“Life throws a lot at you, that you have no control over,” guest speaker Daryl Jones tells a group of teens gathered in one of the campus’ pavilions.
Jones is visiting the teens for some real-life inspiration. He is a former NFL player, a member of the beloved 2001 University of Miami Hurricanes Championship football team and is now a church pastor.
“You’re gonna have some ups and some downs, some highs, and some lows,” Jones tells the kids. “But at the end of the day you have to make sure your attitude stays in check. You gotta stay positive. And then you gotta match that with the effort it takes to get where you want to go.”
Where does Wonzic eventually want to go? Well, so far he says he loves his science classes at school and that’s what he may pursue as a career after graduating.
“It’s just so interesting. Other subjects I understand it. I understand it, but they don’t interest me. It’s just like something you need to do,” says the ninth-grader. “But science, I would go the extra mile for science. Like the cool experiments, the chemicals, the genetics thing, all that is very interesting to me. I’m definitely going to college.”
Wonzic’s mentor, Justin, intends to make sure that happens.
“Wonzic is one of the students that I have,” he explains. “He’s one of my really good students that actually he does what he needs to do. Every time I go and I do the mentoring session with him, I feel like he actually takes in what I tell him and he applies it. The program is a grant funded program. So as long as we keep doing good and getting good results. And as long as he’s in high school, he’ll keep getting the services. So trying to be with him until he graduates. I enjoy it because I like to see them progress. I was in school. When I was going through that stuff it would’ve been nice if I had a mentor as well. That would’ve definitely helped me out in a lot of areas. I feel like it’s kind of giving back.”
The folks who head the Grounded for Life program point out 42-percent of children in foster care will never finish high school. Nearly 100-percent of them will never earn a college degree. It’s exactly what Justin and others at Children’s Harbor work to avoid.
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