I had learned about Students Rising Above years before becoming a mentor. I began my partnership with the organization in various ways at first; resume review, connecting potential intern candidates with hiring managers, interview run throughs; etc..All the while, I was looking forward to becoming a Mentor but I was anxious about being able to provide the time I felt the mentee deserved. Finally, after attending my third Gala, I took the leap and applied online that very evening. After meeting with Kirsten and attending the Mentor orientation, I felt comfortable leaping in with my mentee because I knew she and I had an amazing community of support.
Acting as a mentor to a shy senior high school student who lived in West Oakland was and continues to be an incredibly fulfilling experience for me. My mentee’s capacity for personal strength has taught me what human beings are capable of, while I feel I bring her the freedom to giggle and let go of the moment every once in a while. She has spent most of her life forced to be thoughtful about every minute; make sure I find a quiet place to finish my homework, make sure I reserve time with the school computer to write my essay, make sure I get home in time to watch my little brother, make sure I find my sister so she doesn’t walk to the bus alone, make sure I find a ride to College Track, make sure I get home before it gets dark, make sure I take the safe route home, make sure I take the safe bus home, make sure I’m safe. It took awhile and continues to take effort for her to relax but I see strong growth over the past year. My main objective for our weekend visits is to provide her with a carefree environment; walks on the beach, brunch dates, visits to the latest exhibition at the De Young, silly movie nights, window shopping down town, etc.. The irony is that as shallow as these activities may appear, they provide for an opportunity for my mentee to grow deeply. This growth didn’t result from long personal discussions about her past or present but rather, by simply exposing her to happiness; i.e., lot of dance sessions while driving, belting out Beyonce even though I’m a horrible singer and laughing at ourselves. While I haven’t inspired her to actually dance in front of me, she does laugh freely at my goofiness and if she’s genuinely laughing, she’s relaxing…she’s allowing herself to let go of the worry for a minute. Like anything in life, when too much time passes between our visits, it takes a bit longer for her to get to a safe place again with me but we work at it. We start over sometimes but we keep going forward. She is such a strong woman, she knows that she ought to laugh and so, slowly a smile will curve up her lips and a giggle will cough out her throat and soon enough she’s actually laughing. I’ll continue to sing Beyonce as long as she’ll need me to, but I’m fairly confident, my mentee is about to hit her stride in a big way as a Freshman at SFSU this year.
I’m so grateful for her and cannot wait for to see what she thinks of college.