With four years of mentorship under his belt, a TCU student from Reno, Nevada made sure he left an impact on Fort Worth youth before leaving.
Will Carter, 22, had been volunteering as a mentor with Leadership Fort Worth’s Leader Kids program since his first year at university — he loves mentorship.
“My first year, I really just had a great time. The kids were really receptive to what we’re trying to do, asking questions, just trying to better themselves and they still keep in contact. Well, they like hit me up sometimes. Just to ask for advice,” Carter said. “I think it was more like seeing the growth from a very first meeting where they were all very shy and awkward.”
This school semester, Carter returned to the mentorship program as one of 18 mentors — this time as the student director. On March 7, the group of 28 children bused from their middle-school campuses to YMCA’s Camp Carter, a natural space for children to learn and spend time with families.
“This not only helps the youth before you, but I think it helps you with your leadership skills and your perspective and attitude,” Carter said. “You don’t take as many things for granted. I think a lot of these kids don’t have that guidance and it’s not only valuable to them, it’s valuable for you too, to be that role model because you don’t know how much you need some of these kids.”
Since the start of the second-longest-running program in the organization’s history in 1996, 1,222 children have graduated from the program. Typically, the program runs for the entire school year and includes seven sessions.
Leadership Fort Worth partnered with TCU for mentors. Due to the unpredictable nature of college students’ schedules from one semester to the next, the program this go-round was only a semester long, or four sessions.
Jasmine Jennings-Rentz, the assistant director of leadership and experiential learning at TCU, said both TCU and Leadership Fort Worth are working on ways to create more stability between middle-school students and college mentors. The program doesn’t want the student to get attached to their mentor and then the mentor switches halfway through the program, Jennings-Rentz said.
Carter graduates from college in May and he is pursuing a job in federal law enforcement, he said. Carter also founded a youth basketball camp two months ago — Carter Elite.
“It’s been awesome. It’s been a blessing because I never want a kid not to be able to play a sport because of financial limitations. Whether that’s because of a parent or whatever, it’s not their fault,” Carter said. “Just organizing and giving them opportunities to showcase their skills in front of college coaches is super cool. They’re all really talented. So just trying to give them a chance to get a scholarship — otherwise, they may not be able to afford college.”
YMCA Camp Carter, which spans 360 acres, offers year-round educational programs including summer day and overnight camp, outdoor education, rentals, retreats for children and families.
Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.