Our mentors and the North Texas community came together in January for our annual Mentor Community Connection, a free educational workshop meant to empower and further educate our mentors and other adults who work with at-risk teens. We partnered with Bright Pools and Keynote Speaker, Pastor, and Counselor Dr. Eric Cupp of Midlothian who brought the powerful message,“Overcoming Grief & Loss”. The timely theme was decided as our students continue to deal with the trauma and loss brought on by COVID-19.
Cupp has worked in staff development for schools and businesses since 1990. His primary trainings for schools have been in the areas of conflict management, dysfunctional families and the children they produce, and relationship building on multiple fronts. There are very few educational groups that Cupp has not spoken to over the last three decades, and there is no region of Texas in which he has not presented.
Cupp shared his own story of childhood trauma growing up in a dysfunctional environment with parents who fought bitterly and often. While highly educated, his childhood experiences have given him a deeper insight into the gamut of emotions that kids in trauma experience.
“When you talk about grief, you’re really talking about trauma,” he said.
Cupp brought to light the negative impact that trauma has on a child’s academic life.
“It’s hard to learn when you’re cold,” he said. “It’s hard to learn when you don’t have shoes.”
Tying Cupp’s message to mentoring, Mentors Care Managing Director, Brian Blackwell pointed out that mentoring is essentially helping students deal with grief and loss.
“That’s what you do as a mentor,” said Blackwell.
While recently attending a wedding, Blackwell happened to meet a former student recipient of Mentors Care, Sarah Sullivan. When he told her he worked for Mentors Care, Sullivan yelled, “I was in that program in high school! That program literally changed my life!”
Sullivan, now a technology teacher, has created a video testimony of her life-changing experience with Mentors Care. Alongside Sullivan in the video is her former mentor Reagan Harrison who talks about her relationship with Sullivan and how she is very proud of her former student. Harrison encourages viewers to try mentoring.
Following Sullivan’s video, a panel consisting of area educators and Mentors Care mentors engaged Cupp in a question-and-answer segment. Panelists included Red Oak High School Associate Principal Julie Wuerch; retired police officer and mentor, Richard Pena; Maypearl High School Principal Eric Janszen; and retired elementary school principal and Mentors Care board member, Karen Childers. Cupp answered the panel’s questions concerning common struggles among students, the effects that COVID-19 has had on students, the subject of sexuality among teens, and breaking the cycle of unhealthy homes and unhealthy relationships.
Cupp’s advice to mentors and other adults helping students with grief and loss is to maintain consistency, determination, acceptance, and love.
Perhaps the most important takeaway of the evening and goodwill toward mentoring is, in Cupp’s words, “Trauma, grief, and loss are all created by relationships. And healing comes from relationships.”