APPLE VALLEY, Minn. — A mentorship program in Dakota County is celebrating being a part of the lives of local youth in need of adult support.
Patsy Ryan met Nasir Dennis when he was in second grade. Ryan and her husband Marck Zweber realized Dennis was in need of true support, and became his official mentors through Kids 'n Kinship, an organization that's celebrating 51 years.
"He had this great smile, just the nicest kid and he lived right next to our school," Ryan recalled. "He wanted to do well, he wanted to change his situation.
Ryan and Zweber became Dennis' official mentor when he was in middle school.
"During that time I was going through a really really hard time and I needed some stable support and they were always okay with being that stable support," Dennis said.
He said the next 11 years of his life were full of playing golf, baking cookies and hanging out with the people he now considers family.
"Having like people there to make sure you are growing up to become the person you are supposed to be, like a respectable person, I think its nice to have that structure there and it was nice for me," he said.
Nasir graduated in the top 10% of his high school class this year and is now a freshman at Concordia St. Paul.
"I was always working hard and stuff but honestly Mark and Patsy - they always had the love, they always had the support there and any help I needed," he said. The two even helped him move in for college.
Mentors are carefully screened and matched with a mentee. They are asked to spend 1 to 4 hours a week with them.
Volunteers make a one year commitment to the program but in Dennis' case, it's grown into a life-long friendship.
"Without them I don't know if I would be the man I am today," he said.
Now, Kids 'n Kinship says 30 kids are waiting for a mentor.
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