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January 08, 2020

The Essence of Mentoring

A reflection from a professional mentor on the youth she serves.

When I sat down to write about the accomplishments of my youth, I felt an overwhelming sense of humility and gratitude. How do you pick just one moment in time to describe the overall greatness of these young people? These youth have taught me far more than I believe I ever will be able to teach them.

For example, there is Mandy*. She came into our program due to a high level of absences and low academic performance. Although these have been challenges we’ve addressed together, they are not what defines her. When I think of Mandy, I am always in awe of her kindness, sensitivity, and joy. She makes everyone she encounters feel loved and cared for. It’s in the moments where I watch her engage so kindly with other youth and mentors that I feel an exceptional amount of pride. Mandy can make any day brighter; she has a zest for life that ignites passion in the lives around her. She continues to make huge improvements not only academically, but in her attendance as well. We choose to celebrate her little accomplishments and continue to strengthen the community that surrounds her.

Then there is Alyssa*, the most hilarious, attentive, and bold individual I know. She is the definition of spunk, and I am honored to work with her. She keeps me on my toes, from her creative wit to her impressive bilingual abilities. Alyssa has an inner strength that inspires me daily. She is fearless. During our trip to the Space Needle, Alyssa proceeded to do handstands on the glass floors overlooking the large open space below us. It was her courage that allowed me to put my trust in the experience and step out onto the glass with her. I believe this is the essence of mentoring: to allow our relationships to continually change, challenge and shape us.

I have learned something from each one of my youth and know that I will continue to be transformed as our stories intertwine. I am grateful to their parents, who saw something in our program and started a relationship that I believe will transform families for generations, including my own. Relationships matter, mentoring matters and when we allow ourselves to learn from one another, we create a powerful community.

-Katy, K-5 professional mentor

*Youth's name changed to protect their identity