Mentorship Program Brings Consistency of Care to Kids in the Ozanam Campus Residential Treatment Program

Mentor Profile: Catherine O

When Catherine was 13 years old, she had a family friend who served as a mentor for her and her brother. He took them golfing and to the arcades, cooked meals for them, and did what he could to support their single mother.

“He didn’t have to – we weren’t his kids,” said Catherine. “But he created a fun, safe place for us just to be kids and enjoy life.”

Several decades later, Catherine plays a similar role as a mentor for *Javon, a 14-year-old boy in the Ozanam Campus Residential Treatment Program.

Catherine first started visiting Javon in 2022. She knew he was athletic, so many of their meetups centered around sports, like playing football or basketball together on campus.

During off-campus outings, Catherine often tried to build in learning opportunities and incentivize good behavior with special activities and events. Often times, they would attend events at the local library.

Utilizing her public health background, she would teach Javon about healthy eating by having him compare price tags and nutritional labels at the grocery store. When they ate out, Catherine had Javon determine the tip amount to help him get used to using money.

“It was cool to see certain things we practiced during our time together start to sink in,” said Catherine. “Things that help guide him in his daily life that they don’t generally teach you in school, and if you didn’t have mentors to teach you those things, you wouldn’t understand or know them.”

After a year of mentoring, Javon was transferred from the Ozanam Campus to a different residential facility several hours away. Catherine stepped in as a kinship foster home for Javon for about six weeks during the interim period between facilities.

Despite the difficulty of this transition, Catherine and Javon still maintain a close relationship and talk on the phone two to three times a week.

“In my career, we have a lot of beneficial mentor-mentee partnerships,” said Catherine. “I wanted to do that for my community, especially for teens and youth, so they know how important they are and can make a positive difference in the world. This mentorship opportunity has been extraordinary. They placed me with the perfect kid; Javon has certainly been a huge blessing to me,” said Catherine.

She is currently working on getting her respite foster care license and hopes to return to mentoring at Cornerstones of Care again soon.

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*name changed to protect privacy