Mason Alumna Mentors Children in Need

Posted: May 27, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christina Mennella

Mason alumna Nancy Portee makes volunteering her life’s work, and her volunteering projects are as valuable to her as her career.

“I feel it is important to give back to the community, and I feel strongly that it is important to help children have a good start in life,” she says.

In addition to her full-time job as lead technical trainer for BAE Systems, an international defense systems company, Portee, the single parent of a 12-year-old daughter, fills her remaining hours with service to a number of community organizations, especially the BeFriend-a-Child Program, a volunteer organization she founded.

Offered through the Fairfax County, Va., Department of Family Services, BeFriend-a-Child provides mentors for children at risk for abuse and neglect. Portee has been a part of the program for 23 years, and today she is the lead volunteer and mentor.

Portee, who graduated from Mason in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development, has worked with many children in the program throughout the years. “The education I received at George Mason University gave me the ability to thoroughly understand [these] children’s needs,” she says.

She has been a permanent mentor for three children: one child she befriended for 11 years, another for four years, and another she has been mentoring for the past year. She also temporarily mentors children until a permanent mentor can be found.

“I think each child [in the program] needs to have someone that they can count on in life, and know that person is there for them,” says Portee. “Many of these children are not able to experience all of what life has to offer. The program gives them that opportunity. Many of these children just need someone to talk to about their problems or academic issues; mentors are able to give them the tutoring and support they need.”

Portee serves on the Befriend-A-Child committee that schedules, plans and coordinates the monthly or bimonthly group activities for the children and the mentors. Some of the activities include horseback riding, visiting museums, sailing, bowling, and etiquette and money management seminars. Portee, who also plays a role in raising funds for the organization, frequently visits community meetings to speak about the program.

In 2007, Portee was selected as Alumna of the Year by Mason’s College of Education and Human Development for her efforts. She was also recognized by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and received its 2007 Barbara Varon Volunteer Award.

But the volunteerism doesn’t stop there. Portee takes it to a new level. When not working with Befriend-a-Child, this Girl Scout troop leader serves on the board of her temple, where she also teaches Sunday school, and offers her time and services to the Misty Brae Farm LLC, a U.S. Pony Club Riding Center where her daughter Brittany rides.

“I love spending time at the barn with Brittany and watching her ride horseback,” she says. So it is no surprise that she would bring the children she mentors to such a setting.

“All of the children in the mentoring program have touched my heart,” she says. “Each child deserves a chance to blossom and be the best they can be.”

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