On Saturday, June 12, 2015, Betty Aleatha Brooks died peacefully at home.
Over my years serving as executive director, I have met Betty only once. But in several conversations where we tried to learn a little about each other; in the old photographs of Betty at a podium or embracing a young person with deliberate attention; in the stories of the many high school students blossoming under the light of Betty’s legacy – I discovered that the pleasure of serving is more of a privilege for me. Mentors, Inc. -- the nonprofit Betty and Shayna Schneider founded in 1987 – has a permanent place now in the history of Washington, DC; and Betty’s spirit, a permanent place in the lives of over 4,000 program graduates, and their over 4,000 mentors.
With so much planned obsolescence all around us, Betty created a beautiful and long-lived solution to poverty, to wasted dreams, to dwarfed potential for our children. Her belief that a caring adult mentor could help DC teens thrive beyond the artificial boundaries of neighborhood and circumstance, carries on into the future in the thousands of now productive citizens, dreams fulfilled, their possibilities endless.
Everywhere I go, I meet them. People break from a conversation to share with me their time in Betty’s mentoring program as a mentor, and smile with the memory of their protégé as an awkward and uncertain young person, now grown up. Or an adult recalls their time as a student, a mere child they confess, and how their mentor helped shape their life. Or in some cases, save their life.
I have heard it said that to really change the world you must bring life to a dream that will outlast your own life. You must be content to not see the full unfolding of it. You must know only that your work now might be a legacy of light for generations to come. This, is what I think of most as I celebrate Betty. Also, that I never wanted the conversations with her to end. Because Betty was here, and she touched so many of us, the conversations never have to.
In fond appreciation,
Deirdre Bagley, Executive Director