It’s tough for many people to imagine life without their best friend.  For kids and teenagers in the Junior/Senior Buddy Mentoring program at Burlington’s King Street Center, their best friends are mentors too.

12-year-old Kadar Jafar and 30-year-old Tyler Vendituoli met six years ago through the program.

“I think Tyler is one of my best friends,” says Kadar.

“It’s the first time I’d heard that, it’s pretty exciting,” says Tyler.

Director of Community Outreach Gabriella Tufo-Strouse says a match as perfect as this depends on common interests and personality traits.

“I don’t just make a match to make a match, I take time so, sometimes it’s 3 to 4 months, sometimes longer,” says Tufo-Strouse.

She says mentors go through an extensive screening and training process.

“I try to get a sense of their interests, what they’re doing, where they’ve been,” says Tufo-Strouse.  “The majority of our mentees come from low-income families and we do work with a high refugee population.”

Of the programs 60 pairs, Kadar and Tyler are one of the longest standing.  Tufo-Strouse says about 20 pairs have been going on four plus years.

“He has lots of things in common with me, we’re both very creative,” says Kadar.  “We kind of hit it off right away.”

“I try and always start ‘hey what do you wanna do today’ because I think in kadar’s life, he doesn’t get that opportunity a lot to guide where he wants to go,” says Tyler.

Being the middle child of 10 siblings, that’s likely true for Kadar, whose family is Somalian.

“I’m number six,” Kadar said.

Most Wednesday afternoons, you’ll find Kadar and Tyler out in the community.  They ride bikes.  They see movies.

“We really like kayaking,” Kadar said.

Tyler works at Conant Metal and Light on Pine Street in Burlington.  You can find the duo there often.  Tyler has taught Kadar how to build sculptures out of scrap metal.  They’ve built a rabbit, a fox, and are working on an elephant.

“I’ve learned how to weld, I’ve learned many metals and how to recognize them,” said Kadar.

“I try and engage him in ‘let’s make something, let’s do something new’ and that doesn’t always work out well,” said Tyler.  “We went fishing once and he said it was the most boring thing he’s ever done.”

Their time together isn’t always care-free.  After all, responsibility is a part of life too.

“From kindergarten to about second grade, we’d go to Kerry’s Kwik Stop and we’d get some food and then we would work on my homework,” says Kadar.

Every Wednesday afternoon at 3:30, the pair takes a fleeting few hours away from whatever challenges either of them faced that day.

“Mentoring is a great thing and I understand why it’s hard to get into, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it seems you just keep doing it and it make such a visual impact on a kid’s life,” said Tyler.

The King Street Center’s Teen Futures program, including the mentor program is free of charge.  The program still needs 20 more volunteers.  To sign up, click here