Updated: Mar 30, 2022
Palmer Ponstein has been mentoring his student, M since November of 2021. M sat back one day as he and Palmer were spending time together and wondered aloud, “Palmer, what do you think it would be like to be the first person to ever live?” This pondering provided Palmer with a perfect opportunity to give his student some context about the Bible, which was not a familiar subject for M. “Actually, there was a first person ever! In the Bible it talks about this–when God created Adam.” Palmer laid out the story of creation, and when M asked if Adam and Eve were the first people to die, he went into the story of Cain and Abel. M showed an interest in some of the stories of the Bible, and his mom expressed a desire to study the Bible as well. This open door allowed for Palmer and M to discuss other passages of scripture. They went over the story of Joseph, discussing how he was sold into slavery by his brothers before eventually becoming the second in command in all of Egypt. Upon hearing that, Joseph ultimately forgave his brothers and saved his family from the famine. M exclaimed, “I wouldn’t have done that!” This created space for Palmer to share a lesson about forgiveness.
M loves sports and plays basketball at his middle school; he is the center on his middle school team where he stands about a head taller than most of his teammates and opponents. I had a chance to meet up with Palmer and his student at Calvary Church last week during a March Madness event. I asked M some questions about his time with Palmer and how he liked having a mentor.
Question 1: What is your favorite thing you have done with Palmer so far?
His immediate response was, “Right now!” However, when Palmer asked him if he thought watching the March Madness tournament on TV was better than watching Hope College play Adrian live, M decided seeing basketball in person was better. Another favorite that M really liked doing with Palmer was the blind chicken nugget taste test they did similar to this one, and a heated I Spy competition at the mall.
Question 2: What is your favorite subject in school?
“Science is good because it is easy. I really like art too, because I like to draw. I have a folder of cartoon drawings that I have done.
Question 3: What is the best thing about Palmer?
“Palmer is funny and fun to be with. He takes me to fun places and we do cool things together. We play football together and he even bought me a basketball, which I am thankful for.”
Question 4: Tell me about your family
“My favorite in my family is my mom because she takes care of me and buys me stuff when I need it. She makes sure I have clothes and a ride. She comes to my basketball games, supports me and motivates me. I am the oldest of 5 siblings that live in my house, but I do have a half-sister who lives at a different house. I don't always get along with my siblings.” M said he did not always listen to his mom in the past and would be lazy, but lately he has become a better listener.
Question 5: “Is there any advice that Palmer has given you that you remember?”
“Approach your grades like you approach your basketball team. If you get a D that means you are on the team. You don’t want to be just on the team though. You want to work at being the best team player and get an A.”
Palmer and M have spoken extensively on how to be respectful to his teachers. Using a polite tone when talking to teachers has
been helpful for improving relationships. When they first began meeting together, M often found himself in trouble for being disrespectful with his teachers. Since then, M said his relationship with the majority of his teachers has improved. Palmer has also witnessed M come to realize that some of his friends have not been a positive influence on him. During one conversation, M described a certain group of his friends as his ‘toxic friends’. These types of conversations embody a bit of our vision for MentorMe of West Michigan –Young people seeking guidance from mentors, and becoming aware of their own areas of needed growth. Palmer hopes M will continue to be open with him in this area; that they can discuss the importance of breaking off negative friendships even though it is difficult to do. Another way Palmer has served M is through tutoring; Palmer has seen M’s grades improve. Walking alongside M and helping him understand discipline and perseverance has played a major impact in his studies and attitude.
Palmer is a financial services professional at New York Life Securities LLC as well as a Mentor at MentorMe of West Michigan. He describes himself as both “sporty” and “geeky.” He played football, basketball and baseball in high school and went on to play college football at Olivet Nazarene University. He enjoys playing games, solving riddles, puzzles, strategy games, problem solving, jeopardy, and trivia. He also sings on the worship team at his church. In 2017, he and his wife Becky married; and a recent life changing event was the birth of their son Valor last spring. Palmer has found himself able to balance a full-time job, fatherhood, and spending time with M every week. On top of mentoring M, he also has been valuable to MentorMe as a Board Member and assisting in the training of new mentors. We are extremely grateful for Palmer and the gifts he brings to MentorMe of West Michigan.
As we look forward to April, we are excited for another month to serve our students in West Michigan. We hope you will consider becoming a mentor or contributing financially to help support our rockstar mentors like Palmer! If you are already a mentor or support our program, we want to thank you!! We are filled with gratitude and want you to know the blessing you have provided for mentors to walk alongside students like M. Even if you never meet these students, know that your contributions are having a major impact!
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