AVONDALE, AZ — Avondale Middle School has teamed up with Avondale firefighters to provide a mentorship program to its students.
The new program started the year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The guidance the firefighters provide to the teenagers is proving to be a game-changer for when they need a trusted adult in their lives.
Firefighter Daniel Guerrero was born and raised in Avondale and says his community is his priority.
“We didn’t know it would turn into this. It’s actually been really awesome seeing it grow and progress,” said Guerrero.
Guerrero is part of a group of 14 Avondale firefighters who make it a point to be present in the lives of roughly 30 students at the school.
Some of those students include 8th grader Ethan Valenzuela.
“I personally, my father left and for me, he’s kind of like a father figure, he’s been there and it’s nice to have that support,” said Valenzuela.
Principal Lillian Lin says she sees the students as her own and is grateful for the effort the fire department is putting into this program.
“When we brought them in I saw a huge change in my kids, they started to put a lot more effort in their work. They have an extra person watching out for them in the neighborhood,” said Lin.
Kalahari Haywood, another student who receives mentorship, says his mentor just visited him at the school a few days ago.
“He asked how good have I been doing in like math, [be]cause that’s one of the classes I’ve been struggling in and I told him, 'I’m learning a little bit more and it’s getting easier for me',” said Haywood.
“We are not parents. We are not teachers. We are able to build that trust and relationship and that helps them trust us and talk to us. It might not be anything major at home but it’s something they need to get out and it’s cool to be able to be that person there for them,” added Guerrero.
And that is something that Angel Lopez says he will never forget.
“That I’m grateful for the mentors because they helped me a lot, Lopez said.