Elaine and Christina
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It was an elementary school mentoring program in Rhode Island that first brought Elaine Belvin and Christina Markrush together.
Elaine was a recently retired dental assistant and an empty nester who missed the bond she developed with her children early in their lives. Christina was a painfully shy and sad-faced first grader who suffered anxiety attacks.
Seventeen years later, the former mentor and the mentee are often reminded of the special relationship they first forged at Warwick Neck Elementary School. They still stay in touch all these years later, mainly now through emails, text messages and Facebook postings.
And they still run into each other on occasion at the same school where they first met. Elaine now mentors a boy for the same second-grade teacher that Christina had.
And Christina? She’s blossomed into a 22-year-old confident and caring adult herself. Christina now mentors two young girls, also at Warwick Nick Elementary, where she got her start.
“(Elaine) is the reason why I got into mentoring,” says Christina, who’s currently juggling three jobs to save enough money to restart her college education in early childhood development.
“She made all the difference in the world to me, and now I want to do the same for others,” she says.
Elaine, meanwhile, beams with the pride when talking about Christina.
“I admire the person she has become and the friendship we will always have together,” Elaine says. “The feeling of helping someone else, seeing a positive change and knowing you had something to do with it makes it all worth it.”
The remarkably touching story of Elaine and Christina is a testament to the power of mentoring and its ever-lasting impact. But like all mentoring relationships, it didn’t come without challenges. Elaine says it took awhile to get Christina to open up during their initial weekly meetings at school. And it took nearly a year before she was able to gain Christina’s trust and confidence.
“It took probably a year for Christina to get out of her shell,” Elaine says. “But I had my bag of tricks where I kept games, puzzles, fun activities. I let her pick what she wanted to do each time we got together.
“She hardly said a word at first,” Elaine recalls “but once she loosened up, she became a little chatterbox. It turned out she had so much to say.”
Elaine and Christina ended up hitting it off so well that they agreed to keep their mentoring relationship going through elementary school. And then again through middle school. And even through high school, although they took a break in Christina’s junior year because, between music and sports and working four jobs, it got too difficult to schedule regular meetings.
But as Christina says, their mentoring hiatus didn’t last long.
“I was busy which was great, but I found I really missed her,” Christina says. “I mean she was always there for me. I didn’t want to lose her so we started meeting again my senior year.”
Although they are no longer technically matched in mentoring program these days, Elaine and Christina will always be in each other’s lives.
“I think about Christina all the time now, like she’s part of my family. I want the updates and know how she’s doing,” Elaine says. “And when I see her and her mentees at school events now, like at this year’s holiday mentoring party, I can’t help but feel how lucky I was to be matched with her and for us to keep in touch all these years later.
Says Elaine: “Ours is a story that has really come full circle.”