Meet our Annual Pledge Partner: Family Mentor Foundation
Total Community Investments: $6,226

Family Mentor Foundation

Posted on 02 October 2018

As a former middle school teacher, I saw children on a daily basis come into my classroom and struggle with a variety of unmet needs. These needs generally fell into one of four distinct categories; physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I discovered that if any one of these needs went unmet, it prevented the child from reaching their full potential. With more than 50 percent of my students struggling with unmet needs, it was a constant challenge to try and meet those needs myself. It was demoralizing to see my students struggle. My heart grew heavy because these children deserved the support.

A child doesn’t get to choose his or her parents or the environment in which they grow up. As many of us know and maybe experienced ourselves, we get the cards we are dealt with and must learn how to survive. But nowhere is it written that anyone has to do it alone.

It was one particular student in my last year of teaching whose story inspired me to try and do more. I made my decision to leave my job as a teacher and start Family Mentor Foundation. The creation and dedication to FMF, has been my leadership journey.

I believe everyone possess leadership skills. Whether leadership is practiced as a mom in the home, a teacher in a classroom, or a CEO of a company, leadership is unique to each individual. To me, leadership is a process rather than a destination. It is as unique as the individual. For some their leadership potential may require courage, decision making, and creativity. For others it may be more subtle and include traits like humility, grace, and patience. Leadership requires a willingness to evolve as an individual and in doing so bring about necessary change. Whatever skills a person brings to the leadership role, those will grow alongside the addition of new ones.

My leadership journey began with the creation of Family Mentor Foundation. I started FMF because I wanted to help kids that I couldn’t help as a teacher in the classroom. It has been five years since FMF started and it is only now when I look back that I see that Family Mentor Foundation has helped me just as much, if not more, than the kids we serve. When I began FMF, I had a vision to help kids, but inside was scared to death to step into a leadership role. My fear was what people would think of me, especially if they didn’t believe in what I was doing.

And I was afraid to fail.

My personal leadership journey has brought about an evolution that has helped me acquire hidden talents as well as the opportunity to face and overcome my fears. My growth as a leader has been directly proportional to the growth of our organization. Challenges for the organization became opportunities for me to acquire new strengths. Truth be told, I have always had a hard time maintaining close relationships and hated asking for help. I saw asking for help as a sign of weakness and maintaining close relationships required a level of vulnerability unfamiliar to me. The organization that I was attempting to create needed both of these skills sets. As the leader of FMF I learned very quickly that I couldn’t get very far on my own and that I would have no choice but to ask for help. I needed to learn how to be vulnerable and let people get to know me and our family. Our volunteers weren’t just investing in the organization they were investing in me. In order to grow FMF, I had to learn, usually through pain and hardship, how to overcome these weaknesses. For me this is what being a leader required. The more I practiced asking for help, the more the organization grew. The more I practiced being vulnerable and working closely with others, the more the organization grew.

This is what life has always been about for me: stepping out of fear, embracing my limitations and then surrendering as life creates something beautiful.  Life has and will always be my number one teacher. I wasn’t born a leader, however through circumstance, experience and willingness I was became a leader.

-Kari Vernon




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