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Jameer is at Center Stage

In describing Jameer, a 16-year-old in New Jersey MENTOR’s Therapeutic Foster Care program, you could say he is a young man who is always at center stage.  Jameer is a performer who thrives off an audience.  Give him attention, and he will make sure everyone in the room is happy.

My dream is to become an R&B artist, but I really like lifting spirits, making people smile and making people laugh,” he said.  “When something bad happens, I always try to make people laugh to light up the room.  I don’t know what this world would be like if there was not laughter.”

Thanks in large part to the guidance of his Mentor—Arvis Smith—and the support provided by New Jersey MENTOR, Jameer is well on his way to achieving his goals.  Already can he light up a room and, depending on who you ask, he’s a natural singer who doubles as a comedian—or vice versa.  He’s been writing, too; mostly for his musical ventures. But recently, he had the opportunity to write about his life and share a story about the times that didn’t include as much laughter.

As part of the application process for the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program’s Weekend in Dallas, Jameer crafted a 300-word essay.  The title of the heartfelt piece was “What it feels Like Growing up Without a Dad.”  The contents described a childhood without the presence of his father.

“I never heard him say ‘I love you,’” Jameer said of his father, in the essay.  “I have no memories of playing catch and no memories of sharing any of my interests in music with him.”

Jameer’s story resonated with those at The Steve Harvey Mentoring Program, as he was one of 100 boys selected from over 1,000 applicants nationwide and made the trip to Dallas this past summer.  The Mentoring Weekend is held annually with a mission to “share, teach and demonstrate the principles of manhood to young men.”

Jameer was able to attend lectures and classes, listen to guest speakers and participate in group events involving fishing, physical fitness and other engaging activities.  The weekend provided him with a fresh outlook on life and allowed him the opportunity to make some new friends.  Through it all, he hung on to lessons that had been missing without a father figure in his life.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” he said.

Arvis also was in Dallas for the weekend and was able to take some mentoring classes provided by the program.  She said that the program had a tremendous impact on Jameer.  If anyone would know, it would certainly be her.

She has had Jameer in her home since November 2010, and has watched him transform from a child with behavioral challenges into a positive, courageous young man who truly has found himself.  Arvis is a singer herself and provided Jameer with a stepping stone toward pursuing his passion for music.  Since moving in with Arvis, Jameer has joined the choir at church, where he recently performed a solo and has opportunities to lead the church in prayer.

“He calls it freestyle praying,” Arvis said of Jameer’s style in front of the congregation.

“He was a little quiet at first, but we really hit it off with the music and he has really blossomed since then.  He is really funny, too.  He will make you laugh and he reminds you of a young Bill Cosby.  It’s amazing to watch him perform.”

While performing is at the forefront of Jameer’s vision for the future, he also wants to go to college and study criminal justice or the business aspect of music.  He’s keeping his options open, adeptly understanding that becoming a professional singer can be a difficult dream to realize.  Arvis knows this is yet another sign of his growth and the level of maturity he has reached over the past two years.

“We have that mother-son relationship and it is a blessing to have her by my side,” Jameer said of Arvis.  “When I moved in with her I was a little shy.  But now, thanks to her and New Jersey MENTOR, I am more open.  I’ve really had the chance to learn a lot.”