The strength of DaQuan and Tyrone’s relationship is remarkable. It is one full of trust, mutual respect, and ultimately, of friendship. It is the result of mentoring at its very best.
“I became a mentor because I could have used one in my life when I was young,” recalls Camden Fire Department Captain, Tyrone Baker, “I was excited to become a part of a young person’s life and make a real difference.”
Tyrone found out about Center For Family Services mentoring program, Project COPE, through the Fire Department in 2008. He was quickly matched up with then 12 year old DaQuan Johnson, also of Camden City.
DaQuan was struggling in school, constantly getting into trouble and succumbing to peer pressure. “I wasn’t being a leader,” says DaQuan, now an 18 year old freshman at Camden County College. “I was butting heads with my family and acting irresponsible in class.”
DaQuan and Tyrone’s mentorship started slow and steady. What began as biweekly visits to DaQuan’s home progressed to outings to the mall, movies, and sporting events. “I wanted to influence him and steer him in the right direction. I wanted to help him become a success story,” remembers Tyrone. These days and hours spent together helped lay the groundwork for their now strong relationship and DaQuan’s optimistic, hardworking attitude.
“From the beginning Tyrone told me that if I continued on the path I was going I wouldn’t amount to anything in my life. I would end up in jail and be unsuccessful, I’d be a nobody,” says DaQuan. “He has changed the way I think and the way I do things. Now I’m a leader.”
But it took time, close to year, for real changes in DaQuan to become prevalent.
“Tyrone always keeps it real. His dependability and patience helped me and our relationship grow into what it is today,” says DaQuan.
Now DaQuan is in college and working towards becoming a police officer. “I like helping people now, just like Tyrone helped me. I want to give back and now I believe that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.”
And their relationship is stronger than ever. What was once weekly visits and outings have developed into daily phone calls and text messaging, Tyrone ensuring DaQuan continues on his path to success.
“Our bond has become so strong,” reflects Tyrone. “This has become so much more than mentoring, he’s become like a son to me. You never stop being a mentor but they eventually become like family.”