In 2008, Imagine LA matched Arlene and her three children, Karen, Dontay and Dareyn (all pseudonyms) with a mentor team from Bel Air Presbyterian Church. At the time, Arlene was unemployed, dangerously obese, and in recovery for addiction. One of her children was in and out of foster care and juvenile hall; the second lived on a relative's couch in another state. The Imagine LA mentor team provided the family with resources to help keep and maintain their housing, help Arlene get a job, start a healthy lifestyle and remain substance-free.
Arlene’s eldest son, Dontay, was introduced to college by his mentor Ken. When Dontay and Ken first met, Dontay wasn't even sure if he would graduate high school; no one in his family ever had. Ken took Dontay under his wing and, after their hard work together, not only attended Dontay’s high school graduation but, four years later, his graduation from Sacramento State University.
"We both have grown to become better men because of this experience. Mentoring is as beneficial to the mentor as the mentee."
Words from Ken summarize the lifelong relationship that was built through the Imagine LA Family Empowerment & Mentorship program: “When I had my first meeting with my mentee I knew we would be experiencing many rewarding opportunities of growth, but I never envisioned we would be establishing a ongoing "father-son" relationship that is still strong after eight years. We both have grown to become better men because of this experience. Mentoring is as beneficial to the mentor as the mentee. What you give in time, knowledge and support will be very gratifying. Helping others helps you.”
Currently, Dontay works in a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk kids attain access to resources in the community. He also travels across the country for speaking engagements as an ambassador for first generation college students.