Stormy Prevatt, a freshman at Westside high school, was matched with her mentor, June O’Neal, 21 months ago as part of the Mentor’s Project of Bibb County.
The two have bonded over a love for food, helping others and chocolate shakes.
O’Neal is the executive director of The Mentor’s Project of Bibb County and her previous mentee graduated around the time Prevatt entered into the program. The two ended up being a perfect match for one another.
“She and I eat fish, we don’t eat meat and we love chocolate. We didn’t know when we were matched that we enjoyed a lot of the same things,” O’Neal said. “We have just gotten along so well. She has been a great, great gift in my life.”
O’Neal has been able to help Prevatt get out into the community and try various things for the first time like pumpkin pie, hot tea and Jim Shaw’s. Prevatt hadn’t gotten out much into the Macon community until she met O’Neal.
At the age of 3, Stormy Prevatt’s mother was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome and neuropathy. Guillain-Barre is an autoimmune disease that affects the nerves. It led to her mom being hospitalized.
The pair didn’t reunite til Prevatt was 7-years old. Prevatt said that O’Neal has provided a person that she and her mom can lean on.
“She is not only my mentor, but she is a part of my family now,” Prevatt said. “Whenever we need something, we know the person to call. … She is a very supportive figure for me to look up to. ”
Prevatt has started building her resume for her future. She has already earned the REACH scholarship through the state of Georgia. She is a member of the track team, FBLA, DECA, marching band, Beta club as well as JROTC’s color guard and drill team. She spends most of her time at school with many days not getting home til 6 or 7 p.m.
Prevatt believes that she and O’Neal fit together so well because they are both very outgoing. They also get to do small activities together that allow for more one-on-one bonding like decorating the tree at Christmas.
The Mentor’s Project has become a bit of an outlet for her as she is able to go out to eat, go to different events, volunteer and just spend time with new people.
“We also do a lot of fun activities. It is not all about school and work,” Prevatt said. “We do a little tea around Christmas time. Just fun little activities for us to bond together. We do go to Chick-Fil-A a lot.”
The process to become a mentor is easy to go through. It requires a simple application and a background check. O’Neal spends a good bit of time checking references and trying to get people approved to become mentors.
Once in the program, mentors and mentees are paired together based on gender. Currently, there are 112 boys and a shortage of male mentors.
O’Neal doesn’t want the young men in the program to feel left out and is hopeful that are able to get more one-on-one mentors for them specifically.
Prevatt said that she would encourage people to become a mentor because it is a chance to make a real impact in a child’s life the way O’Neal has in her’s.
“You can put good impressions on them from the world because you never know what they are going through,” Prevatt said. “They can always be that smiling. It not only helps you but it helps them grow as a person.”
Aside from just offer time with the mentees, they also aim to be able to step in and help in other ways like food on the weekend, help with school uniforms, shoes and notebooks.
“The Mentor’s Project is all about equipping young people with tools to be successful in school and in life,” O’Neal said. “I always feel like if we can save one child’s life it is amazing. We try to remove barriers so children can be successful.”
For Prevatt, the program has given her a head start in pushing towards her goal of one day entering the medical field. Her mom’s diagnoses sparked her interest in medicine. She said she just wants to be able to help others the way that O’Neal has helped her.
“I know in my future I want to be able to help people,” Prevatt said. “Just seeing what she (O’Neal) does for the community and what her co-workers do in the community is very inspiring to watch them dedicate their life each day to help other people.”
O’Neal has made an impact on Prevatt’s life in being an additional layer of support outside of her family. But O’Neal said that she is the one who has been given something even more special in return.
“Just the opportunity for somebody as intelligent as Stormy is to get to see things in her own community that she hasn’t seen before that is just a gift to her,” O’Neal said.
“But mostly it is a gift to me. I have learned so much from these children, way more than I have helped them, they have helped me. The children have taught me a lot and to look at things differently, things that I take for granted not to take for granted anymore.”
PROGRAM IS IN NEED OF MORE MENTORS
During January, O’Neal hopes that she can attract more mentors to join the program as it is National Mentor’s Month. The Mentor’s Project has over 300 kids currently enrolled in it.
“Our main goal is to provide one-on-one mentors,” O’Neal said. “Unfortunately we don’t have nearly enough mentors. So we have had to form mentoring groups.”
‘It is a gift to me.’ Bibb County mentor project working to build special bond with youth