Mentor Makes A lifelong Friend

Mentor Makes A lifelong Friend

Life has an interesting way of pulling us in the direction of serving others, whether that’s helping a family member or friend, holding the door for a stranger, or mentoring a young person. 

Julia Brady moved to Chicago nearly three decades ago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago. She yearned to make a difference in her community, specifically by helping children. But she had no idea that her path would lead her to a lifelong friendship. 

“Giving back, it’s always been important to me,” she said. “[So has] mentoring and thinking about how I can help younger kids and be there for them.” 

Education was important to Julia, and she wanted to help kids succeed in school. So, she volunteered once a week with the Junior Achievement program in Chicago. Not only was she tutoring kids, but she enjoyed connecting with them. 

…I’ve learned that I could love a child who was not my own…I’d like to think I helped her [with her confidence and] finding her place in the world…

 Chicago felt more like home each day. She enjoyed helping nurture kids’ intellects and build meaningful relationships. 

But Julia saw there were more opportunities to give back to kids in Chicago. 

“I started looking at mentoring programs… and there was an activities fair at the church I attended, [where] I first learned about Mercy Home,” Brady recalled. 

When she learned about Mercy Home’s Friends First Mentoring program, she was interested because it was flexible with her work schedule, and program staff provided unlimited support throughout the program. 

She knew this was the perfect opportunity to make a positive impact on a child’s life. 

Before she was paired with a mentee, she attended a training course at Mercy Home. In the training, they asked the future mentors: “Who mentored you?” 

Brady reflected on the piano teacher who made an impact on her life. 

“I had a piano teacher from the time I was 6 until age 11. That’s the one adult I had at a young age that really knew me in ways that other people didn’t,” she said. “I was creative at the time and would write music that I would never share. But she encouraged [me to continue to write music and share it.]” 

After completing the Mercy Home mentor training, Brady was paired with a 10-year-old girl named Carissa Moorehead. They both wanted to explore the many fun attractions that Chicago has to offer. 

Moorehead lived with her two sisters, and her older brother, at their grandmother’s house. And because the two would be spending a lot of time together, Brady wanted to get to know her family. 

“I remember getting to know her family and her grandmother and just spending time at her grandmother’s house,” Brady said. “When I’d often go to pick her up… I’d usually spend a little time connecting with her grandmother [and] getting to know her younger sisters.” 

“My grandmother loved her. She delved into our lives, and I was able to experience some of the things she really valued,” Moorhead said. 

Their special bond blossomed as they visited museums and parks, watched the Chicago Air and Water Show, rode bikes on the beautiful lakefront path, and baked tasty treats. 

“I was always excited to go out with her because [we went on] different adventures that I wasn’t able to have with my grandma,” Moorehead said. 

 But Brady also wanted to show her mentee the importance of helping those in need. 

“[She] valued charity work. We would organize clothes and things to give away to people in the community who needed [them],” Moorhead remembered. 

Brady recalled a special moment that occurred after she had dropped Moorhead off at her grandmother’s. 

“And I’ll never forget once leaving her grandmother’s house,” Brady said. “I brought Carissa home and her dad was coming in… he [said], ‘thank you for all you do for my daughter’ to me. I felt a part of her extended family and was grateful for his support of my friendship with his daughter.” 

Brady reflected on how much she gained from their experiences together. 

“I’ve learned that I could love a child who was not my own, that I had no biological connection to… [and], I’d like to think I helped her [with her confidence and] finding her place in the world,” she said 

Moorehead recalls how Brady helped her with her confidence at an early age. 

“I was a super shy and timid middle schooler. She helped bring me out of my shell.” 

Despite their several years-long mentorship ending, their friendship carried on throughout the years to follow. Occasionally, they will email each other, and last February they spent time catching up. 

“Julia was my big sister… I attended her wedding [years ago],” Moorhead said. “When my sisters and I talk about our childhood, we talk about the experiences that we had with our Friends First mentors.” 

When my sisters and I talk about our childhood, we talk about the experiences that we had with our Friends First mentors.

Moorehead is grown up now. She graduated from Southern Illinois University and was an assistant principal and educator for nine years in elementary and middle schools. 

Brady had such a positive impact on Mooreheads’ life that she wants to mentor a child in need. 

“I’m interested in pursuing mentorship and having a mentee of my own because of the experience that I was able to have through Mercy Home, and how meaningful it was to me,” Moorehead said. 

Brady encourages anyone who wants to make a difference in a child’s life to become a Friends First mentor with Mercy Home. 

“Being a Friends First Mentor is a wonderful experience. It’s a great way to connect with Chicago’s young people in need. You’ll be investing in the future of our city and will get so much more in return,” she said.

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