Friendonomics: From Kindergarten Through High School, Friends Helps Children Flourish
By age six, the children we serve have already faced tremendous challenges. Nearly all are poor, and many live in families where dropping out of school, incarceration, or teen parenting are the norm. Without the intervention of a mentor, these children are likely to repeat these destructive cycles.
Friends of the Children profoundly changes the story of a child’s life, filling the gap between what children deserve and what life has dealt them.
We serve 400 youth, providing each a professional mentor, called a Friend, whose full-time job is to ensure their success. Children spend 16 hours/month with a Friend, for 12 ½ years, from kindergarten through high school. The result? What we call Friendonomics. It’s what happens when children at risk are given the support and guidance they need to flourish.
Kevin Jones, recent Friends graduate, spent last year like a typical senior, with homework, AP classes, friends, play rehearsals, and video games. He is smart, funny, and motivated, with a warm smile and a generous spirit. He loves to volunteer at the homeless shelter, and he always makes time to hang out with his Friend, Darren.
“This is how he should have been the whole time,” Darren says. “Happy. Doing great things.” Unfortunately, Kevin’s childhood was marked by neglect and emotional abuse which escalated each year. In 10th grade, his home life became unbearable. Darren worked tirelessly to have Kevin placed in a foster home, where he is now thriving.
“I’ve been in a situation that caused me to feel like I’m crud. Like I’m not worth anyone’s time,” Kevin says. He is thankful to Darren for reminding him, day after day, that he was not stuck. That life really would get better. “We have serious talks,” he says, “which I think is cool. I can tell him anything and he’ll listen. I can’t do that with anyone else.”
Kevin likes to say that when life gives you lemons, you can only make lemonade if you have ice, water, sugar and a pitcher. He sees Darren as the pitcher, without which he knows he would be like many kids from his neighborhood, running with gangs, taking part in criminal and violent acts.
Kevin is not alone. Annual third party evaluation of our program shows that 97% of our youth have avoided the juvenile justice system, though 60% have a parent who has been incarcerated. 85% of our program graduates have earned a diploma or GED, though half of our youth have parents that did not complete high school.
With the consistent support of his Friend, Kevin has transformed from an angry and distrustful child, to a young man who has many friends, is a National Honor Society student, and is excited about the future. Kevin is attending college next fall, and plans to study computer engineering. When asked what advice he would give younger children at Friends, Kevin doesn’t hesitate. “Trust your mentor. Look up to the sky. The sky’s the limit.” He laughs. “I know that’s pretty corny, but really the sky is the limit.”
With graduates like Kevin, it’s no wonder that every $1 invested in Friends of the Children yields more than $7 in benefit to the community. Members of the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon confirmed this finding in an in-depth return on investment analysis of our program.
More About This Charity
Friends of the Children – Portland
Friends of the Children provides our most vulnerable children a stable relationship with a professional mentor for 12 ½ years – from kindergarten to high school. 12 ½ years. No matter what.
- This charity raised $3,935,494 in the past year
- This Achievement helped 1 child
- This charity has helped 400 children since January 1, 2011
- 1 child’s life profoundly altered, from anger and sadness, to excitement and a plan for success.