Joe Dobberke is a former Y Buddies participant. He wrote this reflection on his experience as a mentor in 2007.
Y Buddies has not only been an amazing experience for my Little Buddy, but also for myself. After four years of mentoring the same Little Buddy (or just Buddy because he is now a teenager), I am still amazed how much I still am learning about myself.
One would think that as a mentor you would do most of the challenging in the relationship. Challenging your Buddy to take on new risks, step out of their comfort zones, and live life in a different way from what they are used to. I do believe that I have challenged my Little Buddy, but I also believe that he has challenged me an amount equal to the challenging I have done. My experience has opened my eyes to the fact that the majority of people don’t live in the same little world I do and that each and every person has a unique set of challenges and struggles in their life. I have grown to the point where I can truly be empathetic towards my Buddy and really understand where he is coming from and why he needs my help or guidance. I think I can honestly say that my Buddy has also progressed to a point where he can be empathetic towards me. I would like to think that I have helped him mature, taught him some life lessons, and corrected his path when sometimes it seems like he has veered off course.
The bottom line is I have gained a friend who I have shared many great times with, no matter what mood we’re in. I love the fact that I can do kid stuff and not have to worry about being a “grown-up” when I am around him. He enjoys the fact that I get to take him to new opportunities and he gets to try things he never thought he would do. We have fun no matter what else is happening in life, and that is important for any kid, or really any person. I never thought that I would be a Y Buddy or a mentor this long, and I am very grateful for the fact that I am still a mentor and hopefully always will be.
Joe has served on both the Student Board and the UY's Community Board. He was the 2011 recipient of the University Y Ethical Leadership Award.