Ragan has been mentor to 10-year-old Brianna Jessup for 13 months through the mentoring program sponsored by the 4-H Friends of Youth.
“As often as I can, I’ll pick her up at her house and she will spend the night with us,” Ragan said. “We have so much fun. We will cook, do crafts, bake cookies and veg out on the couch watching TV.
For her birthday last year, the Ragans took Brianna out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. “We have the cutest pictures of her wearing a big sombrero,” she laughed.
Brianna attends many family functions with Ragan, where she is treated like one of the family. She knows quite a few of Ragan’s young cousins and they seem to have fun playing together, Ragan said.
When Ragan first heard about the program, she contacted Stephanie Hollis at the Elizabethtown 4-H office. Ragan took the required one-day class and earned her certificate to be a mentor. She was matched with Brianna as a lunch buddy.
“I would go to her school and bring a special lunch for us to eat together. We would sit off to ourselves so that we could have the chance to really talk and spend time together,” she said. “We had such a great time, I knew that I wanted to do more things with her.”
Brianna, who is a student at Elizabethtown Middle School, lives with her aunt. The families get along well and work with each other to share time with Brianna.
“We are trying to have children, but we don’t have any yet. I love children, I even went to school to work with children. I thought this would be a great way to help someone while also doing something I love to do,” Ragan said. “I want to be a good role model for her.
“There are so many things children need to know that their parents or guardians don’t teach them. Maybe I can help her with some of those things,” she said. “And I think it is cool to have a new little friend.”
Hollis has been instrumental in the success of the match-up, Ragan said. “Stephanie stays on top of things. She is very dedicated to the program, the mentors and the children.
“So many people say they don’t have time to be a mentor, but you have to make time,” Ragan said. “And it is as beneficial to the mentor as it is to the child.”
The mentors are matched with a child for a one-year period, then have the choice of whether to continue with the program. Ragan knew she wanted to be matched with Brianna again this year, but wanted to ask Brianna’s feelings as well.
“When I asked her, she said, ‘I don’t want to be with anybody else but you, Mrs. Tami,’” Ragan said. “I was so glad she felt the same way.
“And to know that I’ve done something good for her that she will never forget, that gives me a wonderful feeling,” she added.
For information on the mentoring program, contact Hollis at 862-4591.