Marixa had her doubters.
She was referred to PEP Connections in her early teens because of the crippling anxiety and depression interfering with everyday life. Her life was spiraling out of control. Getting through the week seemed like a hurdle. Graduating high school seemed like a pipedream.
Then came Robert McFarren, a veteran PEP Connections care manager. Robert believes in setting goals. Each small victory leads to a bigger goal – a new “finish line,” he likes to say.
“Mr. McFarren always believed in me,” Marixa said. “He kept fighting for me and was always honest with me. He made sure I was on the right track.”
He linked her with tutors and helped her enroll in summer classes and other critical community programs. He ensured she had the mental health supports she needed. He was there if she just needed to talk.
Robert helped Marixa understand that finishing high school was within reach but only if she put in the effort.
So she did. Marixa graduated in 2017.
“I like to see kids win,” Robert said. “This is tough work, but if you invest your time, you will see a return on that investment. If I can help, I’m going to – no matter how long it takes.”
Believing in kids – kids who doubt themselves and are often doubted by others – is Robert’s passion.
In many ways, Robert sees a little bit of himself in the kids he serves. Like many of them, Robert grew up in the inner-city and was raised by a single parent. He too knows the struggle of not being to afford necessities and the fear of walking the streets at night.
Robert, though, understands that growth and change is possible. He sees it every day in young people like Marixa.
One of the central principles of PEP’s anchoring philosophy of Re-ED is trust. Trust between the child and adult is essential – the glue that holds teaching and learning together.
“It’s so hard to get these kids to trust you initially,” Robert said. “It can take a long time. But when you build that trust, it’s smooth sailing if they want to do the work. You build that trust by always showing up, by always being there and doing what you say you’re going to do.”