What it's like to build a mentor/mentee relationship
October 17, 2020
Because of COVID19, I had to wait a long time to become a mentor. I was SO excited when I went to the virtual orientation, and I hoped that I would be a good mentor and that my mentee would learn to trust me over time. Well it turned out that [Ready for Life] is the world’s best mentor/mentee matcher ever because my mentee and I are perfect together. At first, I think we both were nervous - it makes sense - we didn’t know each other at all, and it was harder to get to know each other because we were both quarantined. Slowly but surely, we started to connect, to share some laughs and to relax a little. My mentee was very open about some things, but I try never to ask her questions. I know from Mentor Training that she is in charge of her story and I try very hard to listen without giving advice or making any judgment. It has been a wonderful life lesson for me - to just hear someone else and really listen to what they are saying. I am naturally insecure and was unsure of how much my mentee liked me or trusted me. She is very independent and intelligent in all ways. She has been working very hard to regain custody of her son from DCF for over a year. She has never told me the details, but she tells me when she has court dates. Last Thursday she called and left a voicemail. I am glad that I didn’t get to answer the call because I will always keep that voicemail on my phone. She said that she didn’t have a lot of friends but that she had some wonderful news to share and she wanted to share it with me. She had just found out that her son was being placed back in her custody in a week. I was so thrilled and of course called her back right away. The two of us were so happy for her news and to share it with each other. My mentee is very tough - she doesn’t show much emotion. However, as we were talking, she said, “and just think I will have my son for Thanksgiving and Christmas” and then her voice cracked and she said, “I didn’t have him at all for the holidays last year”. It broke my heart and it still does but it also made me so happy for her that she would have her son for all of the holidays this year. It also made be very happy and excited that I may be able to share in holiday celebrations with her and her son. Last Friday I was able to meet my mentee in person for the first time. It made a huge difference to both of us. There is nothing like talking in person. We were bubbling over with excitement and dying to hug each other (but we are both very careful about the virus so we couldn’t). She has asked for us to have our own book club where we read a book together. Of course I love this idea and I love the book she picked out. We each have a copy and we will have so much fun sharing this experience. One of the things that my mentee is most excited about once the virus is contained is going out for tea. I never would have thought of this and I am so glad that she tells me what she would like to do. It’s such a simple thing and something that I know I will love to do also. Today I was repacking Christmas decorations and saw that I had two extra stockings that I have had for years. Now I know who those stockings were always for - my mentee and her son. As we learned in Mentor training, “this is a relationship” and I am sure there will be challenges but it is a relationship like none other and I am really happy to have it.
All my life I have wanted to fill this special role in a young person’s life. I am so grateful that I found Ready for Life and that Ready for Life matched with me such an incredible person. - CHRISTINA COWELL
Changing Lives One Hour at a Time...
Christina is not alone. Mentors tell us every day how fulfilling it is to be alongside their resilient mentees. Building a Mentor/Mentee relationship takes a little time as the young adults we serve overcome their experiences with abandonment in childhood, and it’s worth the investment. Having a mentor makes a tremendous difference in the lives of these young adults.
Imagine having someone to turn to for the first time in your life? Imagine going through life without someone to celebrate successes and help brainstorm solutions when things get challenging. It’s easier than you may think to line up beside your RFL Mentee. Mentors are often surprised that it takes as little as an hour a week to have this kind of life-changing impact, but it’s true. We see it time and time again.
If you want to learn more about becoming a mentor, email our Director of Community Relations and Mentoring Michelle Walag at MWalag@readyforlifepinellas.org, call 727-954-3989 ext. 223, or visit readyforlifepinellas.org/volunteer