At the close of his high-school career, Jeramie McGill was at a crossroads in his life. Like many graduating students, he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with his future. “When I graduated, I had no direction,” Jeramie, an Austin resident, said.
With the encouragement of a youth mentor at St. Joseph Services, a United Way of Metro Chicago community partner, Jeramie, a former participant, began volunteering with its after-school program for local youth.
“Bradly didn’t want me to end up taking the wrong path, so he encouraged me to stay involved with the organization,” Jeramie said of his mentor Bradly Johnson.
Little did he know, this advice would be the catalyst for his lifetime commitment to helping local youth reach their fullest potential. In Austin, mentors like Bradly and Jeramie are creating a culture of mentorship that helps students address academic and behavioral challenges, as well as find a system of support in a critical time of life.
Finding his place
Transitioning from mentee to mentor, Jeramie quickly found himself thriving as a role model to kids participating in SJS’s after-school programming and open gym program. Early in his service, Jeramie’s drive earned him a title and paycheck when St. Joseph Services offered him a part-time position as program coordinator.
Now, at 28 years-old, Jeramie boasts the title of Youth Development and Outreach Manager for St. Joseph Services. “I was ecstatic when I was offered the job,” Jeramie said. “I’ve been with the organization ever since then and have never stopped loving it and giving it my all.”
Paying it forward
Recently, Jeramie reflected on his relationship with his mentee Thomas, a young man from the neighborhood. Thomas had difficulty expressing himself around peers and adults and didn’t like to ask for help or admit when he was wrong.
To break through Thomas’s barriers and help him build confidence, Jeramie would offer him rides from Austin to the SJS Humboldt Park facility. This gesture gave them time to get to know each other. “I want to identify their strengths first,” said Jeramie of the young men he mentors, “Because then you can translate that strength into a hobby, academic focus or a career.”
After getting to know Thomas, Jeramie began helping him improve his interpersonal skills and learned he had an interest in art. With this knowledge, Jeramie helped Thomas develop and hone his passion and skills in painting, which has given him confidence and career prospects.
Though it was a challenge to reach this point, Jeramie knew he could rely on the teachings of his mentor Bradly to help guide his relationship with his own mentees.
“Bradly was my idol – he was authentic, and he never sugar-coated anything,” Jeramie said. “I follow his tactics and utilize his approach of giving honest feedback to my mentees, because it worked for me.”