Mentor Brings Exceptional Talents to Job

March 18, 2011

Programs and Services

Marla, an FRC drug court mentor, was intrigued by the phone call from her former client. She hadn’t heard from Tanya in two years, so she was pleased to learn that she was engaged and would graduate from college in May. But Tanya admitted sheepishly that she had an ulterior motive for calling. She was writing a paper for an American Literature class on Edward Albee’s play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and she was stumped. Could her former mentor help? Marla was very familiar with the story: a sorry tale about alcoholism and verbal and physical abuse. “Tanya, you were just like that woman,” she responded. “Write about your own journey and how you found your voice!”

Four years ago, Tanya had been one of Marla’s first clients, and Marla smiles as she recalls that learning experience. “Whatever Tanya thought she could do, I thought she could do! We learned together. She wanted a house in a safe drug-free neighborhood and I said we’ll get you a house. She wanted to go to college, and I wrote the letters to get her in. We rode the bus together to Tanya’s rehab sessions when my car wouldn’t run. She accepted my criticism and she accepted my praise – and she’s been sober ever since.”

Marla’s own unique journey contributes to her success as a mentor. She earned a doctoral degree, traveled abroad, worked as a journalist, and taught college — but all the while she struggled with other people’s expectations for her. It was only when she found her own voice that she realized she was happiest helping others. She says she gets more job satisfaction from drug court mentoring than from all of her previous professions.

She continues to be amazed by the transformation she sees in the young women in her charge. She says they come
in angry and resentful of the drug court’s intrusion in their lives, and then gradually learn to take control of their own future – because they want to, not because of a judge’s order. “I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard clients say, ‘Why the hell am I here? I don’t want to deal with you!’ and then they realize they can do it.”

Marla sticks to her clients like glue through every rise and fall in their struggle to overcome addiction, and she maintains contact with them long after they leave the court’s supervision. “I’m the first one to cheer them on,” she says, “so they continue to call me when they take positive steps in their lives.” And, when it comes to getting help with class assignments, it doesn’t hurt at all that your drug court mentor was a college professor!