When Tim Clark was a sophomore at Waltham High School, he struggled academically. His grades were mediocre, his attention span was short and his motivation to succeed dwindled. He was reluctant to ask his teachers for extra help when needed. For Clark, attendance at school was optional. He lived in a group home that was run by the Department of Children and Families. Though he was well-liked by his peers, he hesitated to trust others.
Today, the 18-year-old senior aspires to become a lawyer. He will graduate from high school this June and work as a professional chef, turning his passion for cooking into money that he will save to pay for college. Clark’s success can largely be attributed to the relationship he has developed with his mentor, Marlborough resident Mark Fung-A-Fat, and the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation (JAMMF).
JAMMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming at-risk or disadvantaged youth into adults of promise. The Foundation operates the Mazie Mentoring Program, which, in the spring of 2012, matched Fung-A-Fat with Clark. Fung-A-Fat, a director of business systems for Massachusetts Medical Society, was inspired to volunteer for the program after his company hosted a mentor recruitment day for the Foundation.
“I felt compelled to become a Mazie mentor after hearing the stories of students who must overcome a number of obstacles that are beyond their control, such as racial or cultural barriers, a lack of emotional or financial support, language differences and other social issues,” says Fung-A-Fat. “When I first met Tim, he was outspoken and very polite. But, he needed focus and direction in his life. It took a few weeks for him to warm up to me and now he knows that he can depend on me.”
One of Fung-A-Fat’s first goals was to empower Clark to identify his own challenges and then support him as they developed solutions together. Among the results of this strategy, Fung-A-Fat supported Clark’s decision to quit the football team so he could focus on his studies. They try to meet once or twice a week in person and otherwise keep in touch by texting. The mentee-mentor duo share a passion for soccer and frequently meet to discuss school work, sports and whatever else is on their minds over tea or ice cream at a local shop. Currently, they are exploring the college application process together in order to narrow down a list of appropriate institutions.
“While I may have helped Tim to shift his priorities and focus on school, he has taught me a lesson in patience and what it means to be there for another person as a resource without judgment,” says Fung-A-Fat. “My hope is to continue my relationship with Tim beyond high school and the Mazie Mentoring Program. To be a mentor to a child is both a rewarding and fulfilling experience. I really care about Tim, his potential, his success and his future. And, I know he cares and has trust for me.”
Founded in 1998, the Mazie Mentoring Program, a unique goal-oriented scholarship award giving program, has helped more than 500 young people go on to lead more fulfilled and successful lives while inspiring the adult volunteer mentors who work with them. Each year, 60 Framingham and Waltham High School students are accepted into the program. More than 90 percent of those students graduate from high school and more than 70 percent go on to college or other post-secondary training programs.
For more information about the Mazie Mentoring Program, to become a mentor, or to support the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation, visit www.mazie.org. Applications for volunteer mentors are always being accepted.