As a newcomer to the Chicago area Mark was interested in contributing to the local community, with no expectations and no idea how much he would get back from mentoring, or how big a difference it would make to CJ (Cornell Jr.) and those he touches.
When CJ and Mark met, they quickly found common ground in their love of food. This has remained constant in their relationship and has also been an evolution. Mark works in food ingredient application research for ADM which helped make for some interesting ideas and discussion, and CJ has tried more new things than he ever would have imagined before.
In elementary school CJ was getting a lot of C’s and even D’s, but the teachers saw that there was more to him. Not long after Mark and CJ were matched, CJ started getting straight A’s and has maintained this most of the time right through to high school as a senior including placement in honors and advance placement classes. He has been accepted by 2 colleges and also qualifies for scholarships to pursue his degree in electrical engineering.
“We’ve had a lot of adventures and good times together with so many different learning opportunities, often for the both of us, from learning to maintain and repair a bicycle to now repairing and looking after a used car to get around. He has learned to play the guitar and we play a song together by one of his favorite artists, Bruno Mars. He also enjoys volunteering with me and has joined me a couple of times help serve at the Good Samaritan Inn, as well as other events around town with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Special Olympics, and United Way.
Seeing how much he has changed over the past 7-1/2 years and the positive impact he is now having on others as well, is the biggest reward I never had anticipated to experience from this.”