“I always say this-I married into Aliquippa Impact,” Gao Foua Jordan says with a laugh.
Gao Foua’s husband, John, met Aliquippa Impact (AI) founder, Joel Repic, during their Freshman year at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. Hearing of his friend’s new ministry, John decided to work at Aliquippa Impact’s day camp program in the summer of 2006. A year later, John married Gao Foua and they moved to Aliquippa. Gao Foua says, “We were more up here as volunteers when it started. Aliquippa Impact had very little budget, it was just kind of like an initiative at first. There were really no positions. We just came because we really felt that the Lord was calling us to Aliquippa.”
A few years into the summer program, Joel Repic asked Gao Foua to take the position of Mentor Program Coordinator. Gao Foua says, “When the opportunity opened up, obviously our heart was already for the city and for the people so I took it.”
Aliquippa has been home to John and Gao Foua for 8 years now. They reside in Aliquippa with their 2 children. John serves as Aliquippa Impact’s Cohort Program Coordinator where he oversees the cohorts in the community. Cohorts are made up of 8-12 students guided by an AI staff member. Students and leaders work together to achieve to achieve set goals.
While John oversees the cohorts, Gao Foua oversees the relationship between mentors and mentees. Her job is to enroll both students and adult mentors into the mentoring program. She says, “I make sure all the adults are safe for the program. We work very close with Family Guidance. They help us implement our program here. I do all the paper work in enrolling and then I get to match the kids with an adult, which is the fun part. The mentors usually send us reports of what they are doing. At the end of every match year, we do a celebration and we take them out to eat.”
Gao Foua takes into consideration both the mentor and mentee when creating a match. She asks the mentors what age group they feel comfortable with and what activities they enjoy. Gao Foua says, “Usually we know the mentee pretty well because they are from the community. The enrollment process with the mentor is usually really long and in-depth because we want to make sure the mentor is safe. Sometimes it’s like 6 months to a year before they become a mentor. We get to know the mentor pretty well in the process.” Oftentimes Gao Foua can sense when a mentor and mentee will be a good fit from her time spent with them. Other times she asks people who know the student or volunteer if they believe the two would be a good match. Gao Foua adds, “A lot of prayer goes into it, too. Really it’s like putting two strangers together and we just hope it works.”
After each year, if a mentor wishes to continue, he or she will sign a new friendship pack up until the child graduates from high school. Gao Foua says, “We’ve had multiple returning mentors, which is great. I think mentoring works because the kid wants to be in it and the mentor wants to be a mentor.” She believes mentoring is very beneficial for students. She says, “I hate to compare kids, but just bear with me. Really we’ve seen kids with mentors have a lot more-I don’t know if you would say self-control-or they just made different decisions than their friends have. So that’s one thing that is really telling of how much mentoring works.”