That’s mentor Patty Gnefkow’s advice for her protégé Rachel Perkins as she prepares to apply for jobs and enter into the post-high school world.
Patty and Rachel have been matched for five years. They first started meeting when Rachel was 13.
“We have a mutual and genuine friendship,” says Patty.
“I think of her as family,” says Rachel. “And I pretty much know most of her family who lives in Wichita.”
Patty says it was a pleasure to get to talk with Rachel about her next steps now that she’s finished her GED work.
“I said to her, ‘You’re ready. You’re ready for a job and you’ll absolutely thrive.”
If Rachel could choose, she says she’d get a job in a pet store or a bookstore. But for either, she has to wait until she turns 18 later this month.
One of Rachel’s favorite memories of their time together is playing pool together.
“I’ve never won! I’ve always tried, but never won,” she says. “Ok, well, maybe once on default, but that doesn’t count.”
She’s also enjoyed the times they’ve worked puzzles together.
“Not a lot of mentors and protégés will just sit around and do puzzle rings all day. I don’t really get to spend that much time with very many people in my family, or with friends because they are all so busy. It’s nice sometimes to just sit down and do one thing,” Rachel says.
“I almost fell asleep on her couch more times than I can count, just because it’s so quiet,” she says.
Rachel has been very patient and understanding as one of Patty’s close family members has been going through a very serious illness.
“It’s been hard to make the changes necessary to allow Patty the freedom to do what she needs to take care of her family,” says Rachel. “I’ve stuck with it because I know she’s needed it and I understand what it’s like.”
“I told her I’m always there if she needs to call,” Rachel says.
“Mentors decide that they are going to be there for us,” she says. “They’re not forced to stay with us. So we should try to treat them with the same respect we want to be treated with.”
She took the time to put together some flower bouquets, took pictures and sent them to Patty to share with her family member to cheer them up.
Patty says they are, and have been, in this together.
“She’s definitely in our life, and we care about her, and she knows that,” Patty says.
Rachel says mentors help you get through hard times, and they help you move along.
“What does mentoring mean to me? Once a friend, always a friend.”