Lance Flynn considered mentoring for a year before committing. Even then, he wasn’t sure he would be a good mentor for one child. So, he ended up mentoring two.
"I was apprehensive going in to do one, and (Newton Mentoring Director Margaret Washington) said ‘You know, we have a couple of sets of brothers; would you be willing to mentor two?’ I had to really take a deep breath. I figured I don’t know what I’m doing with one, so what difference does two make?" Flynn said. "So I said ‘Sure, I’ll meet with them both.’ It’s just kind of a thing if you say you’re going to do it, just walk in and do it."
Flynn, 65, is one of dozens of locals who devote one hour of each week to making a difference in students’ lives through the nonprofit Newton Mentoring, which is designed to help at-risk children in the Newton County School System.
Flynn now mentors brothers Sedrick and Sedarius Bolden, who attend Flint Hill Elementary.
"My concern was I have no training whatsoever. I’m not a teacher; I’m just a normal person I think, but (Margaret) is quite good at reassuring and encouraging you. (A teacher isn’t) what she’s looking for. She’s just looking for an adult who wants to be a friend and be supportive and you have a lot of flexibility in what you can do with the kids," he said. "Newton Mentoring doesn’t send you in totally empty-handed; they have quite a bit of material that covers some introductory things and getting to know (each other).
"There was apprehension, but you just go in and be yourself."
Flynn would ask Sedrick and Sedarius about themselves and he would share details about his life. He helped them with math, read with them and taught them to play checkers. He told them about the places he traveled for work — teaching a little about geography along the way — and he helped them set goals about how to get where they wanted to go.
"I think it has been mutually beneficial. My son is 31 years old; it’s been a long time since I was with younger kids on a frequent basis. … It’s just been fun. If I’ve exposed them to some things and helped them out in the long run, that’s great. I look forward to seeing them every week," Flynn said.
Though he started out apprehensive, Flynn has gone far above and beyond the call of duty. Though it’s not part of the program, Flynn has taken the boys on several field trips outside of school, including to the airport to ride in his plane, to his office to hit golf balls, and to the Alliance Theatre to see a performance of "Charlotte’s Web."
Sedarius said flying in the plane was his favorite part.
"It was making my stomach tickle," he said.
"That’s normal," Flynn said.
Sedrick found flying a little scary, but he really enjoyed hitting golf balls at Flynn’s office — that’s one of the benefits of owning your own business (Flynn founded Technik Packaging Machinery).
Both brothers loved seeing the play, and Flynn is hoping he and his wife will be able to take the boys to another show or two. Sedarius said TV was not better.
When Sedarius grows up he wants to play football and Sedrick wants to play basketball. While playing sports professionally is a tall goal, Flynn uses those goals to teach the boys about intermediate steps and the value of education.
"When you do something you have to think about it," Sedarius said; he’s the more talkative one. "(To play football I have to) go to college and stay out of trouble and get an education."
"I have to work harder in reading, because when I get older, I might not be able to play and stuff," Sedrick said, admitting he doesn’t like to read and has to work at it.
The three share more than just memories; they also share a birthday week. Flynn celebrated his birthday on Monday, Sedrick had his Tuesday and Sedarius had his Wednesday.
Flynn is quick to point out that anyone can be a mentor.
"It’s not that (I do) anything special or wonderful, just different. Different is good. I’m not a teacher, I’m not a parent, and I’m not a relative. I’m just an adult that likes to hang out with them sometimes, but they also know I want them to do well in school," Flynn said. "I push them to do outside reading and I push them to know where Germany is on a globe and stuff like that, but I don’t get any pushback whatsoever on that stuff. They want to learn."
Many more mentors are needed, particularly male mentors, because the majority of at-risk students are males, Washington said. People interested in mentoring can attend one of several training sessions, or make an appointment for other times. Training will be offered from noon to 2 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of United Bank, 7200 U.S. Highway 278, Covington on: Thursday, Sept. 12; Tuesday, Sept. 24; Tuesday