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Mentor Kevin Allen talks about his experience

By Carolina Astrain
Sept. 19, 2012 at 4:19 a.m.
Updated Sept. 20, 2012 at 4:20 a.m.

Kevin Allen said that he used to have neighbors who seemed to have a challenging situation at home, which inspired him to help kids who might be in similar situations. When talking about the kids he mentored he said  "I'd like to think I helped a little, steered them in the right direction."

Kevin Allen wasn't exactly the most popular kid in middle school.

"I was a pretty much a chunky dork," Allen said.

But for the past year the former quiet kid who liked to study and play outside, has been working with Victoria students as a mentor.

"I did a lot of fishing and rode my bike," the Victoria Fire Department firefighter/paramedic said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the mentoring organization, Victoria Business and Education Coalition, honored its mentors and students. Allen was one of six mentors honored.

A loud argument at a former neighbor's house was what piqued his interest in mentoring.

"The police were there a lot," the 30-year-old said. "Not the best home life for their kid."

After VBEC Program Director Peter McNally presented a program to the fire department, Allen noticed an email recruiting mentors.

With his wife working the nightshift and his children busy with other activities, Allen said it was easy finding time to volunteer, despite his rotating schedule as a lieutenant in the fire department.

"Nobody would be home, so it worked out pretty well," Allen said.

When he first started mentoring at Stroman Middle School last year, Allen had one student, but ended up with three.

What stunned him the most was that one of his students didn't know the difference between an inch and a foot.

"I ended up taking a tape measurement up there," said Allen, who was building a house at the time. "These are everyday skills you've got to know."

At one session, Allen noticed gang signs scribbled in ink on one of his students' arms.

"I asked him about it and told him, 'Let's forget the math, let's talk about this,'" Allen said. "I don't think there was a father figure there for him."

The firefighter said he thinks the need for mentors has grown because of an increased rate in divorce.

"You can't say its his fault, it's the environment he grew up in," Allen said. "I like knowing that I'm making a difference in a kid's life for the better."

Now approaching his second year as a mentor, Allen said he hopes to do some work at William Wood Elementary School where his son just started kindergarten.

"He's my boy so I want do what I can for his school," Allen said. "I hope there's more people out there that will jump on board and do it."



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