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The Power of Mentorship

April 1, 2012

For two years now I have been involved with  Big Brothers Big Sisters, mentoring a sweet little girl.  She’s twelve years old, but is only in fourth grade.  She sticks out like a thumb surrounded by her much younger classmates.  When I first got to know her she didn’t express any dreams for the future, or much thought to what her life would be when she got older.  Although she has a good relationship with her mother, her mother works two jobs to put food on the table and they still live with her aunt and cousins to make ends meet.  In fact, necessity has forced her to move numerous times–creating instability and likely being the reason behind her academic struggles.  The first year we were paired together was also the first year she spent the entire school year in the same school.  When she asked me what I did for a living the first time we met, she met my response with the statement, “Oh, you have a job job.”  I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant at the time, but now I have come to understand that it means that I have a career instead of a job.  Over time, I found myself choosing my clothing carefully for our meetings–wanting very much to show her the professional side of myself.  I wanted to show her that there was another possibility for her life–another path–if only she was willing to work for it.  At the end of our first year together she made honor roll for the first time in her life, and has made it twice since.  This last report card, I had the wonderful privilege of seeing her make all “A”s and “B”s for the first time.  And for the last year she has told me often how she dreams of going to law school some day.

I got involved with the organization because of the impact of mentors in my own life.  As a young girl, I was raised by a single father who recognized my need for feminine examples in my life.  He cultivated friendships with professional women who became friends and mentors to me.  These women gave me an image of what my life would be when I got older if I worked hard and dedicated myself.  Even in the little bits of time they spent with me–shopping, going to the movies, or having diner–they had a profound impact on me.  Spending time with my “little sister” is simply my way of  returning the favor the only way I can.

For the month of April, I have the great joy of raising money to support Big Brothers Big Sisters and the incredible work they do in my area.  Out of the four thousand high risk youth they serve in the greater Tampa Bay area, 99% of them last year had no involvement with the criminal justice system, and 96% of them advanced to the next grade level.  Mentors provide friends, examples, and stable relationships in the lives of many children who live chaotic lives.  Please join me in supporting the organization and its worthwhile work.

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2 Comments
  1. May I make a suggestion? After working in public service for 18 years, I have found that this following book is the VERY BEST at explaining differences or responses you might have, especially as she grows older. The book is called, “Bridges Out of Poverty” by Dr. Ruby Payne. I read the book years ago when I was a case worker in the county office (now I administer a program for the elderly) and I cannot tell you how it opened my eyes. The instability etc. that this young girls is experiencing will be with her and influence her actions for the rest of her life – your stable, consistent presence will go a long way in helping her possibly reach stability in her adult life. Children mimic what they say, not do what they hear. Thank you for being a part of the solution!

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I will add it to my reading list for sure. The funny thing is, I enjoy my time with her so much I don’t even think of it as volunteering. It’s easy to underestimate the power of that time if I had not experienced it myself in my own life. I take no credit for her accomplishments–she’s a very smart girl–but I thoroughly enjoy getting to be a witness to her life heading in a new direction.

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