Ron Diericx never expected mentoring was going to change his life. But his mentee, Zae Merricks, became more than just a student he met on Thursdays, he became his friend.
As Ron watched the young man cross the stage in his graduation robe, he felt an overwhelming sense of pride. His mentee was graduating high school. In the fall, Zae will be attending Warner University on a football scholarship majoring in engineering.
To all the guests in the auditorium, the milestone moment seemed effortless. Only Ron and Zae knew all the hard work, tears and lessons in resiliency that had brought them to this day.
A retired air traffic controller, Ron was searching for another sense of purpose in his life. His wife, Sally, a Take Stock in Children mentor for the Citrus-Levy program suggested he try mentoring.
Quiet and unassuming, Ron thought this might not be a good fit. Then he met Zae. The captain of the football team and a good students, his mentee was already on the road to college with great grades, strong family support and a solid work ethic. Through Take Stock in Children, Zae benefitted from a college scholarship and weekly mentoring sessions with Ron on Thursdays.
The road seemed smooth for Zae until some unexpected hardships. First, he had to battle his way back from a major football injury. Then, his parents had to move out of state for employment. Zae and his two sisters stayed back in Florida to live with his grandmother.
The mentor and mentee pair worked through the difficulties and together had a game plan for Zae to get back on the field and keep on track in the classroom.
Graduation will not be a goodbye for this mentoring pair, but a first step into the future they’d planned during their Thursday meetings.