Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Erin Mangan; Achievers for Life Mentor Helps with Emotional Hurdles of Middle School

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Erin Mangan; Achievers for Life Mentor Helps with Emotional Hurdles of Middle School

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy Winckler-Zuniga

When people volunteer, they can change lives - including their own. Each week in Reason, we will highlight a volunteer's story of giving back and how that selfless act was a true revelation. The volunteer project is a collaboration among the Times-Union, the University of North Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville.

Erin Mangan spends her day encouraging others to help children, so she felt that it was important to be part of the picture rather than an observer.

Mangan is director of development for Communities in Schools, a key partner with United Way of Northeast Florida that helps kids successfully learn, stay in school and prepare for life through mentoring, literacy tutoring, after-school enrichment and case management.

For the last three years, she has also been an Achievers for Life mentor, helping her student deal with the challenges of middle school. Mentors usually stay with their students for a year or two, but Mangan and her mentee have stuck together longer.

"I have always known that I wanted to get involved with mentoring," Mangan said. "I had wanted to do it before, but there wasn't time, and I didn't want to give half a commitment."

"I'm happy DeShanda wanted me back," she said of their continuing relationship.

The two have formed an unlikely partnership that works. Mangan described their initial matchup as a surprise, two opposite personalities.

"She was a tough cookie," Mangan said. "All I did was listen; I spent an hour every week barely saying anything and just letting her talk. It worked. She totally changed how she handled situations."

Being there, listening and sticking by her student are traits Mangan learned growing up.

"We had a decent life, we had a house, we had cars, we ate every day, and there are so many people in the world that don't have that," she said. But her parents also showed her how to be compassionate to those who didn't have what she had.

"I had an uncle who disappeared from our lives for a long time," she said. "He was homeless, into drugs, in and out of prison and then we reconnected with him. …

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