Longtime Friends First Relationship Encourages Mentee to Vote

Longtime Friends First Relationship Encourages Mentee to Vote

When David had questions about voting in his first election, he knew exactly who to turn to: his former Friends First mentor, Tony Jeskey.

In fact, it was Tony who initially sparked David’s interest in voting. Though their mentorship ended several years ago when David aged out of the program, their relationship has continued, even though David lives in a different state now.

When David comes back to Chicago to visit family, he also has breakfast with Tony. On one of these recent meetings, the conversation turned to the upcoming election.

“I asked him about voting, and he said he wasn’t too enthusiastic about it,” Tony said. “He said most of his friends in [his] town are very disenchanted about the whole process. And this is so common. Many people just don’t see that there’s any change regardless of who’s elected. … So I just told him [that] at least, it’s a voice and you’re a citizen [and can use that voice].”

After thinking about this conversation, David decided that he was ready to use his voice and vote for the first time. But having never voted before, he had many questions and concerns about the process.

“With how strict that it is right now with COVID-19 and just seeing the long lines outside waiting, and then just not knowing how exactly to vote and having all these questions in my head—I was just wondering if I’m doing it right or wrong,” David explained. “You get anxiety when you have this ballot and then you have to fill it out for the next person to be in an office.”

With how strict that it is right now with COVID-19 and just seeing the long lines outside waiting, and then just not knowing how exactly to vote and having all these questions in my head—I was just wondering if I’m doing it right or wrong.

Fortunately, David knew that Tony could answer his questions about what to expect and assuage some of his anxiety. Tony was able to answer his questions about the difference between early voting and election day voting, if he had to vote for every candidate, and more. Tony also was able to give him some resources where he could research the candidates on his own and make an informed vote.

Armed with that knowledge, David headed to the polls and sent Tony a triumphant video of him with his first-ever “I voted” sticker.

This story is just one example of the many ways Tony and David’s lasting relationship has made a difference in their lives. Matched in 2015, Tony was David’s mentor for two and a half years before David graduated high school and aged out of the program. Both have fond memories of their time together.

At first, David was unsure of what kind of activities they could do together. But he quickly realized it was the company, not the activities, that mattered.

“Once we started talking and then once we started doing activities, I was like, it’s not the activity,” David said. “That doesn’t make the difference for me. It’s just talking and learning all this knowledge that I didn’t know before. It just surprised me at first, all these places [we went to] and [learning] all this information I didn’t know. It was just kind of mind blowing.”

David’s thirst for learning and doing new things is something Tony also remembers from their time together.

“I remember I met David at his home with his family, and David was sort of shy, but a really thoughtful person that wanted to really learn things. David was wide open to new experiences.

“He had never been to different parts of the city, so a goal was to expand his horizons and we went all over and did all kinds of stuff.”

David’s new experiences as a mentor ranged from inadvertently running into a protest downtown and being able to discuss the experience to riding his first roller coaster at Six Flags amusement park.

“For me, of course it was a great experience,” Tony said of his time as a mentor. “It was very easy to be there with David. I’m just proud of him and what he’s done, from the time he took AP classes in school [to now].

“It was really a pleasure to see him grow and be part of his family.”

Now, three years after their match ended, both Tony and David cherish the good relationship they continue to share. David said he is especially grateful to have someone to reach out to with anything he needs help with.

“[I really like] having that one person to talk to and just whatever questions I have, I know that I have Tony as my contact and I can reach out to him and I know he’ll be able to answer any of my questions that I have,” David said.

And while the impact Tony has had on David’s life in beyond question, he humbly insists it was David who had a great impact on his life.

“It was a good experience, and it allowed me to stay in the real world,” Tony said. “I would say I benefited more than David, really.”

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