Melissa McCammon, a single, professional woman, originally from Louisville, Kentucky, and Lyshae Rogers, a teenager being raised by a single mom in North Minneapolis, might not seem to have much in common, but they have forged a friendship that has enriched both their lives and has had tangible, dramatic benefits for Lyshae’s future.
Melissa and Lyshae met through their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. About four years ago, when Lyshae was a freshman at Patrick Henry High School, Melissa was asked to serve as a leader of the Young Women group at church. This volunteer role involves teaching and providing weekly activities for girls ages 12-18. Melissa immediately noticed that Lyshae was having difficulty at school, failing her classes and getting into trouble.
Melissa decided to reach out to Lyshae. “I knew it would be a long term-commitment,” Melissa said. She didn’t want to be someone who reached out and then disappeared from the girl’s life. Melissa invited Lyshae to come to her downtown Minneapolis apartment for homework nights. This evolved into a twice weekly event: Melissa would pick Lyshae up, and they would spend two hours together, working on homework and talking.
Lyshae said, “Melissa saw me struggling in school, and she offered me to come to her home to do homework. We got really close. I think of her as a second mom.”
Lyshae confided in Melissa that she was interested in becoming a lawyer. Melissa brought the girl to the law firm where she works, Stoel Rives LLP. She had Lyshae meet with a paralegal, a couple of associates and a marketing manager. Lyshae began to make connections with some of the other people at the law firm. Some have taken her to lunch and told her things like, “School is really important; if you don’t like English class and writing papers, you won’t like being a lawyer.”
Darlene Rogers, Lyshae’s mom, said of Melissa: “She is her second mom; whatever I can’t do, she can do. She’s been there from day one, making sure that she’s following the [church] standards, monitoring her Facebook page, making sure she’s not posting inappropriate material.” Darlene doesn’t drive on freeways, so Melissa also has helped get Lyshae to church and other activities. Recently, Melissa took Lyshae to get new glasses after she lost hers.
As Melissa became more involved in Lyshae’s life, she started helping the girl plan for her future. Melissa said, “We started making goals of things she had to do, like turning in homework on time–if you reach this mark, we will go pick out a bedspread for you, if you reach this mark, we will go out to the Spaghetti Factory.” Lyshae’s grades started going up, and her attitude became positive. Melissa next told Lyshae that she wanted her to make the honor roll her senior year; if she did, Melissa would buy her a laptop for college. Melissa also told Lyshae that if she made it to a certain GPA by the end of her junior year, that summer between junior and senior year, they would go out west together and check out the colleges and universities affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Melissa said, “College was becoming a reality for her.”
Lyshae met her academic goals, and was actively participating at church and doing other positive things, like becoming the girls’ basketball manager at school.
Last summer, Melissa and Lyshae boarded a plane and visited both campuses of Brigham Young University, in Provo, UT and Rexburg, ID, as well as Utah Valley University and the University of Utah. At BYU-Idaho, Melissa made arrangements to meet with Jarred Brandt, an admissions coordinator, who explained the school and what it took to get in. Melissa said, “He gave her hope that day.” Lyshae says of the experience, “If I got my grades up, we would go to BYU Idaho and visit, and I stuck to that, and we did it, and I visited!”
Lyshae applied to BYU-Idaho and was accepted. She will begin attending classes in September. Right now, Lyshae says that she plans to “major in international studies; I want to be an international lawyer for Spanish-speaking countries or an ambassador for Spanish-speaking countries.” Melissa is simply proud of Lyshae and her accomplishments and hopes that college will be “a life-changing experience for her.”
As Lyshae’s high school experience ends and she prepares for the next chapter of her life, one thing is certain: she and Melissa will remain close. They still see each other twice a week, and although Melissa’s volunteer role as a Young Women leader has ended, she knows she made a difference in the lives of the girls she worked with, particularly Lyshae’s.