Jan and Evelyn have walked together on an unexpected journey of friendship for more than 7 years! They met when Evelyn was a 4th grader at Jane Addams Elementary in Palatine, Illinois. At that time, Evelyn was having a tough year in school and really needed some encouragement. She was a very quiet girl but each week, Jan showed up and they worked on reading, played games, and talked about things both serious and funny. Both were truly enjoying this new friendship, and like so many at Kids Hope USA, the two of them got to know each other better and their relationship grew. Their friendship was also supported by Jan’s husband, their prayer partner.
They met each week all through 4th, 5th and 6th grades and Evelyn’s confidence grew a little bit each year. She was worried about moving on to junior high, and Jan’s support made a big difference. Jan recalls that Evelyn was “very glad to know that their Kids Hope USA friendship could continue into 7th grade.”
Jan noticed that Evelyn had an interest in science, and she asked Evelyn’s Mom for permission to take Evelyn to an all-day Girls STEM Science Conference in a neighboring town. They went together and it was clear that Evelyn’s interest and confidence in her academic abilities were growing. Jan always encouraged Evelyn to be brave, try new things, and see herself with a very bright future. Her mom said she really liked seeing Evelyn become happier and more engaged in her activities.
Even though their time as an official Kids Hope USA mentoring pair was coming to an end as Evelyn transitioned to high school, Jan made sure Evelyn knew that wasn’t the end of their friendship. They began talking about the transition to high school and even possible careers after graduation. Jan shared a Chinese proverb with Evelyn that says: “Life is like a little bottle of sweet and bitter water. It is very wise to drink the bitter water now while you are young, in order to enjoy sweet water in the future.” She encouraged Evelyn to be willing to tackle hard things now, to reap future rewards. They began talking about Evelyn’s interest in becoming a nurse. Just this year, as Evelyn continues through high school, Jan is helping her apply to a program that will help her become a Certified Nursing Assistant, so she can begin earning money toward college in another year or two.
The past few years, Jan has helped Evelyn get involved with high school activities including basketball camp and the girl’s lacrosse team, as well as helped her practice for her driver’s test, and apply for her first part-time job. She has also helped Evelyn overcome her social anxiety. Along their journey together, they’ve had many conversations about life and goals for her future. Evelyn realized how much she has developed. “Over the years, I realized that people can change your life around! Mrs. Liu has helped me grow into a better person. I know I have to work hard, but I’m very EXCITED for my future after college!”
Looking back over seven years of friendship, Jan reflects, “I’ve always tried to help Evelyn see what I see in her; a talented, hardworking and fun-loving young woman. It’s been my pleasure to be her friend and mentor for all these years. I hope our friendship continues for many more.”
During a recent conversation Jan told Evelyn that she can’t wait to see her wearing a name tag someday that says R.N. on it for Registered Nurse. Evelyn smiled and said, “I’d like that too.”