When it comes to some adolescent boys, at times their cocky demeanor can be overwhelming. It takes them a while to develop their self-confidence, and they hide behind a façade of bravado or of stony, nonchalant silence. Yet some boys manage to surmount these challenges and begin to move forward into young adulthood. Nathan* is one of the young men at Amigos who is growing in confidence and moving from childhood into young adulthood, and it is truly amazing and gratifying to watch.
The first thing you notice about Nathan is his smile—it’s bright and toothy and reaches his eyes. His smile is the perfect complement to the next thing you notice about Nathan, which is his impeccable sense of style. He is very style-conscious about his appearance—his clothes color-coordinated and fashionable, his hair meticulously groomed and gelled, his shoes hip. He has a fascination with tennis shoes, and saves his good behavior tickets to purchase new pairs at the monthly tienda or store that the padrino coordinators have for the kids. Nathan always presents himself as neat, clean, and well-dressed; even after playing an intense soccer game in the rain, Nathan somehow still manages to look put together.
Nathan’s neatness also extends to the hogar, or dorm, where he lives. He is very organized with his belongings and does his chores diligently. Often Nathan asks his padrinos, or caregivers, if there is anything else that needs to be done in the hogar once he has finished his assigned tasks. School is yet another area where Nathan demonstrates responsibility. This year he has become a more active participant in class. His homework is rarely undone or done incorrectly. As of right now, Nathan is on track to graduate from 6th grade in December and to begin colegio (middle/high school) next January.
Nowhere is Nathan’s burgeoning self-confidence more visible than when he talks about his plans for the future. Whether he is in a one-on-one conversation with me about the possibility of immigrating to the United States later in life or calmly and self-assuredly detailing his plans to become a lawyer to a roomful of adults during a case management meeting, Nathan really shows signs of having begun to develop security and trust in himself.
J.M. Barrie, the author of the beloved children’s story Peter Pan, once said, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” Because he is charismatic, responsible, and everyday growing in self-confidence, Nathan is well on his way toward flying into young adulthood.
~ Genevieve Volpe, 2015-16 volunteer
*name changed to protect privacy