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His path to being a mentor took him from Haiti to Norwich

Norwich — James Chadic thought he was going to be a preacher.

But life has a way of changing course, and now the 25-year-old, who didn't learn English until he was in high school, is finishing a master's degree in mathematics at Central Connecticut State University while simultaneously teaching.

If you didn't know Chadic's past obstacles, such as growing up in deep poverty in Haiti, perhaps that wouldn't seem like an impressive feat. He turned his life around, crediting God for providing him with mentors, such as June Dunn, an assistant dean in education at Eastern Connecticut University, who changed him "so I can change something."

Now, without prompting, Chadic has become a mentor for youth members of the Church of Psalm 23, a Baptist church he attends in Norwich that rents space from the United Congregational Church. He's there to listen, offer them advice, make connections for them, and help them with their studies, particularly math. It's more than mentoring, he said; it's friendship.

"I want them to have a future like I have. I want them to have choices like I have," Chadic said in an interview last week.

Chadic grew up Christian — he's been going to church since he was "inside my mom's belly" — but he said he didn't start taking religion seriously until he turned 18. He still has the Bible he received on his sixth birthday, his first-ever gift.

"God gives me the ability to change people's lives," Chadic said. "I wake up every morning and ask myself, 'How do I do that?'

"I have absolutely no idea," he added.

Rose Aubin, who is in charge of the youth ministry at the Church of Psalm 23 and the pastor's wife, described Chadic as a quiet leader and mentor.

"He wants to help; that's him," Aubin said, adding, "It's great for the kids to have someone that they can relate to."

Now, Chadic is looking to take his mentoring a step further, Rose Aubin said. He's been working with his alma mater, Norwich Free Academy, to develop a summer program to tutor youth in the community in math for the SATs. Chadic said he'll fund the program out of his own pocket if he has to.

Chadic hasn't been able to go to church as often as he'd like — he used to go five times a week — given his packed schedule, and his absence has been felt. The first thing Aubin's husband, Olivio, the pastor, says to him is, "James, we need you," Chadic said.

That's likely because Chadic has made an impact on the youth at church. He recalled that one young parishioner told him, 'James, I want to grow up to be like you.'"



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