Exploring Student Hardship & Triumph – Student Spotlight: James Saloman


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Exploring Student Hardship & Triumph

By: Dr. Joseph Kashiwagi

Every parent wants to prepare their child for life’s challenges, but some things are tough to anticipate. Losing a loved one, health issues, family separation, or tragedy can deeply impact a student’s path. Learning to navigate these tough situations is crucial for their growth, yet it’s not taught in regular classes. So, what can we do to equip our kids with these essential life skills?

Parents can’t tackle this alone! Even though you want to support your child, your relationship dynamics might pose challenges. That’s where mentors come in. They don’t have to be professionals; they just need to be someone who connects with your child, offers stable advice, and has time for them.

During tough times, having a stable presence can make a huge difference for a child. They might take months or years to process their emotions and open up. Every child is unique, but having someone there consistently is vital. As they cope, they’ll realize that challenges can make them stronger.

To assist students facing adversity, we’ve created the Valley Guardians (VG) program. It’s designed to help underprivileged students access resources they might lack otherwise. Our goal is to empower them with life skills crucial for success, like the story of James, who benefited greatly from personalized coaching.

Student Spotlight: James Saloman

James Saloman, also known as King James, exemplifies resilience and growth in the face of adversity. At just 17, he experienced the heartbreaking loss of his father during his junior year of high school. Seeking support for her grieving son, James’s mother encouraged him to join the VG coaching program aimed at nurturing youth like him to discover their inner capability.

When James first entered the program, he was withdrawn and struggled with various aspects of life. Over the course of three years, however, he underwent a remarkable transformation. Through attending leadership workshops and receiving guidance from VG leadership coaches, James gradually emerged from his shell. He gained confidence, learned essential life skills such as cooking and cleaning, and even overcame his fear of employment.

Today, James works at LeadAZ private school, where he participates in their apprentice program, gaining valuable work experience and socializing with colleagues and students alike. Furthermore, he conquered his fear of driving, now commuting daily to work with ease.

James’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and personal growth. With newfound confidence and determination, he continues to build upon his successes, honoring the memory of his father and fulfilling the potential he knows he possesses.

Valley Guardian Program

The Valley Guardian program is a multiyear coaching program for underserved students in the community. It was created by successful business people in the valley. They got together and formed a non-profit to find ways to fund developmental programs for kids in underserved communities. This program was aimed toward the underserved kids in the valley who have good hearts and have a desire to be successful and be mentored. The kids who are a part of this program have access to all different kinds of services like professional coaches, coaching calls, getaways, leadership education and training workshops, access to professionals in the valley, college and career readiness and more. The Valley Guardian program started with a single school of 6 students, and overtime has grown to 13 schools, 7 districts, and 49 active students. Overall there have been 120 students who have benefited from this program.

The Valley Guardians program offers over thirty online and in person workshops per year. We do many different types of workshops per year including things like arcades, parks, hikes, parties, and online leadership training. Many of the kids who come are not very social and are looking for a place to feel comfortable and be able to meet new people while being themselves. When they come to programs they have a great time. The way we set them up makes kids feel comfortable, whether we ask them what they are interested in doing or set them up to meet new people through social activities at the beginning of each event. The students find they feel connected and accepted through the program.