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Getting to know Rich Dama

-I was Born in South Dakota into a military family. By the time I graduated high school, I had lived in 2 continents, 4 countries, and 6 states. When I graduated from the University of Michigan, I was an adventure tour guide who took international passengers coast to coast on road trips visiting major cities and national parks. Now, I work at the Ann Arbor T-shirt Company as the public outreach coordinator, salesman, and online product model (search “Ann Arbor Tees” on amazon to see). I’ve played rugby for 9 years and played on an international team when I was 18. I have a passion for working with kids and a goal is to pay off my student loans and go back to school for Occupational Therapy.

What does mentoring mean to you?

-To me, mentoring means taking past experiences and recycling them into something worth more than just a memory. It’s like giving someone a road map that you have drawn out from experience. They have to walk the path themselves but at least you can give them direction.

How did you get involved with Mentor2Youth?

-I heard about Mentor2Youth through the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti chamber of commerce (which I am an ambassador). I was looking for other volunteering programs since the camp I volunteer at is seasonal.

What do you enjoy about mentoring?

-I enjoy the chance to give back. Growing up, I had multiple learning disabilities and was “cast aside” by my peers and some care providers. I was lucky enough to have people in my life to noticed that I was having a rough time and build me back up. Sometimes, all someone needs is to be told that even though they have been dealt a bad hand, it doesn’t mean that they can’t “win” and be successful.  

Have you built a bond with any of the students, and how does that make you feel?

-I like to think so! I feel that some of the kids look up to me and take notice of how I act and how I react to things and situations. It makes me feel great and gives me a real sense of responsibility.

What do you enjoy most about Mentor2Youth?

-What I enjoy best about Mentor2Youth are the program goals. The mentoring program is called “Future Leaders” for a reason. There isn’t any one big impact that this program lays out for the kids but it is a consistent reinforcement of how to act and think in a positive way. It teaches the kids that to change the world you don’t need to have one big moment, you do a bunch of little things and change the world over time starting with yourself… like a ripple in water.  

What impact do you feel Mentor2Youth is having on the children and how has it helped you grow?

-Like I said above, it is forming them into the leaders of tomorrow. By trying to be a positive influence on them, they have been a positive influence on me. As we grow up, we forget about how much of world is exciting full of promise. The enthusiasm of the kids is contagious.

What are your hopes for the organization and how do you feel people can support Mentor2Youth?

-My hopes for the organization is that the kids who grow up through it, come back and make a positive impact on the next generation. Giving back to the next generation is a hard thing to keep in the forefront of people’s minds. As the old proverb goes, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”