December 23, 2022

Empowering Youth Beyond 12+ Years

Friends of the Children’s paid, professional mentors are experts in building sustained and nurturing relationships with youth. Each youth has a Friend from pre-kindergarten through graduation to advance goals, build life skills, and celebrate strengths and accomplishments, no matter what.

Cardeana Barton was one of the very first cohorts of youth enrolled at our Portland chapter in 2001. Now in her mid-twenties, Cardeana is a high school biology teacher in East Memphis, Tennessee and is working on her Master of Arts at the University of Memphis. She’s also head coach for girls’ volleyball and track.

At an early age, Cardeana experienced a lot of heartbreak. She dealt with the loss of her dad and the loss of her grandmother. With the help of her Friend, Ms. Rena, she learned that she has what it takes to make it through hard things while staying focused on her goals.

“Everything would have been different in my life if I hadn’t had Ms. Rena. I really don’t know where I would be. I’ve had someone there for me, helping me when my mom or my family couldn’t,” says Cardeana.

The lessons and life skills that Cardeana explored with Ms. Rena have continued to empower her well beyond her time in the program. Ms. Rena passed away a few years ago, and Cardeana treasures her memories with her–and she continues to push herself to be better than she ever thought possible.

Cardeana says, "I could’ve given up a long time ago... I’m just proud of myself that I keep going, even though everything in me is telling me to quit—but I can’t.”

Determination and grit were something that Cardeana saw in Ms. Rena. As she works with children at her high school, she often thinks about the lessons she learned from Ms. Rena and from teachers who impacted her life.

“When I began teaching, I was terrified at first that children wouldn’t be able to learn from me. What could I teach?” says Cardeana. “But then I think about Ms. Rena, my time with Friends of the Children, and the work of other teachers who made a difference in my life. That’s when I realize I have lessons I can pass on.”