Cody Clifton serves as an intern this summer with a history as being our Middle School/homework teacher during this last school year. He grew up as a member of Legacy Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, a church that works closely with Fortress and has given us many hours of volunteer service. Cody went to Harding University in Searcy for three years and is finishing up his undergrad at TCC.
His initial involvement with Fortress started in August of last year when he heard that we were in need of a Junior High teacher. After interviewing with our Executive Director Terri, Cody served as our teacher for the school year. "I love the kids with all my heart so when I was offered a job during the summer, I accepted. There is no better job in the world to me than what we do at Fortress, and I would continue here as long as possible," Cody says about his love for his time here.
"We don't and can't reach every kid. It's impossible and sometimes we try as best we can and our best isn't good enough. But then we reach one and all the hard work and tears and love pays off." That kid for Cody is his mentee he had last year, Kemarrius. Cody and Kemarrius spent their mentor time every week playing basketball, on the court and on the XBox. Kemarrius' drive to better himself at basketball is only matched by Cody's desire to help him reach his potential. Over the year, the two formed a close friendship, and Cody could see that Kemarrius "has all the tools and talents to be anything he wants in life, but he is also in a rough school environment and has a limited pool of good friends to choose from." Cody saw that Kemarrius was veering towards the wrong kids and being influenced by them. He could tell in his behavior that he wasn't the same Kemarrius he had started the year as. Through basketball practice and video games that had brought them together in the first place, Cody bonded with Kemarrius and talked to him about his friends and the choices he was making and how it would influence his future. "He has changed his friend group and I feel that God will work wonders with him in his life as he continues to grow and be at Fortress."
Cody advises that "the culture and lifestyle of most of our kids is not something that can be understood in one day and the reality of their situations is unimaginable for most of us. So come in and love our kids. That's all you can do. You don't have to understand to love."
Cody has felt God's presence strongest on the homeless drives he leads every week for our volunteer youth groups. Cody feels that God has blessed him so much through giving water to the homeless community three times a week. "The relationships I have gained and the love for God I see in the homeless community continues to astound me. I know that God has used Fortress to not only help as many kids as we can but also in the homeless and local community. God uses Fortress as a light."
The hardest part about being an intern has proven for Cody to be the physical and emotional exhaustion that can come from breaking through to the kids. When as an intern or staff you are unable to connect with a certain child no matter what you do, it breaks a part of you down. "It can keep you up at night trying to figure out how to reach them and make a meaningful connection," Cody says. But he knows that being here and giving your love can and does make a world of an impact for most of our families and the community.