19 Jun Change the World – Mentor
Mentors change the world. They empower success and support young people through their journey to reach their goals and dreams. They enable growth, connection, experiences and as 10,000 Degrees Sonoma County says, “They believe in their amazing students!”
This past year, Beth Brown, CEO, and J Mullineaux, Vice President of Philanthropic Services at Community Foundation Sonoma County served as mentors with 10,000 Degrees’ amazing students. These youth (some who just graduated from high school) are dynamic future leaders considering the next steps in their lives. We asked Beth and J (and their mentee’s) to reflect on their experience together.
Please share something that surprised you about your mentoring experience.
I’ve not only been mentor but also mentee as I’ve learned so much from (my student mentee) Fatima and about big things like how to be more organized and public speaking! She is already mastering these skills. I am also surprised by how quickly attached we became. 10,000 Degrees did such a fabulous job in matching us. It is like we were sisters in another life.
I was surprised by how much Manny and I had in common. We have very similar life stories and of course our mutual love for theater and the arts was a natural bridge. 10,000 Degrees did a very good job pairing us together.
How did you work to build trust in your mentoring relationship?
We began on an assumption of trust and opened up to each other and shared some vulnerabilities even in our first meeting. I think this set the tone. And then we took a road (and plane!) trip last summer to look at colleges. I think traveling together always accelerates trust and I would recommend some form of that to any mentor and mentees.
The first six months of the relationship you’re mostly getting together to talk and get to know one another. These casual conversations where we could talk about pretty much anything helped to build the trust. This came fairly easy with Manny, it was a bit harder with his mother. I had to spend a couple of meetings with Manny and his mother so that she could see I had his best interests in mind. It took a while before she was comfortable having me take Manny places but eventually we were able to go to the theater together and do an out of town campus site visit.
What have you learned about yourself through this experience as a mentor?
I don’t have children of my own and it has been a long time since I’ve been around teenagers, so in many ways I needed to apply a “Beginner’s Mind” to the experience as I didn’t have a template of how it would work. This perspective is a helpful one for some many things in life. I also learned in a very deep way about the unique challenges first generation college applicant faces. I knew this already in my head but now it is also in my heart.
I have learned that mentoring is an important part of who I want to be as a person. I was provided many opportunities as a first generation student and I want to “pay it forward” for other young people. I realized how simple it is to put my connections and networks to work to benefit another person. The best thing I did for Manny was getting him reconnected to the Imaginists Theatre Company, because I know Brent Lindsay and Amy Pinto, and having him find the community where he most feels belonging. I also learned that I enjoy this so much that I’m now mentoring a second student, who will be a senior at Piner High School in the fall.
How has 10,000 Degrees supported your mentor partnership?
This experience gave me a new level of respect for all that 10,000 Degree’s does in supporting the mentoring relationship. I had the gift of Megan Topping, their volunteer manager, along with many resources and tips along the way, including meeting other mentors. It also really helped me that my colleague, J Mullineaux, was also a mentor so we could compare notes and provide support to one another, as well. It was great to stand by J at the Piner High School graduation after sharing this experience together.
Megan Topping, the Volunteer Coordinator at 10,000 Degrees was great at communicating with us and providing information (i.e. summer jobs) that might be of interest to our student. She also made sure we were aware of the various deadlines facing out student and the stress levels they might be experiencing. The entire 10,000 Degrees staff is amazing. They did the heavy lifting in terms of making sure Manny filled out his financial aid forms and completed his admission applications. I mostly provided moral support and made sure Manny was staying focused and on course. When he was struggling with Algebra 2 I helped him find a tutor. But every step of the way you’re communicating with and working alongside the 10,000 Degrees staff. It’s a Team effort. I saw firsthand all of the times where Manny could have slipped through the cracks, as some students do. It’s great that Manny had a Team of people making sure that didn’t happen. I wish more students had that.
One of J’s mentee’s (you read that right – J is working with two youth!) also shared his experience working with J:
What have you learned about yourself from this experience as a mentee?
As a mentee I learned how well I can time manage (or at least what I need to improve on), what type of work ethic works well for me, and how to connect with those around me (professionally).
How has your work and relationship with your mentor changed or supported your thoughts about college?
My work with my mentor has done nothing but support my thoughts about college. Given me advice, guidance, and encouragement to achieve my college goals. Supporting me with tutoring, personal essays, and creating as close to realistic road map.
What do you admire most about your mentor?
His dedication to me as his mentee. Always on top of things and making sure he did everything to push me to my full potential. Even going the extra mile to help me out and get me through hard times.
What are your plans after high school
After high school I will be attending Sonoma State University to get my degree in theater performing arts and Spanish.
Sonoma County is blessed with organizations like Mentor Me Petaluma, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, SummerSearch, Big Brother Big Sister of the North Bay, and 10,000 Degrees Sonoma who have designed programs to maximize volunteer adults’ impact with youth in their communities. To learn more about their work, or about becoming a mentor, click on the links for these organizations.