Q&A – A Mentor’s Perspective

RaeAnn (see our previous entry) and Mary Beth have been matched for over two and a half years. In speaking with both mentor and mentee, it is incredible to see what sort of relationship can be formed in such a short time. Read below for Mary Beth’s insights on mentoring, memorable moments and advice.

What did you anticipate or expect before the match?

I don’t know what I expected, but I was nervous that the match would not be comfortable. With Rae Ann, I felt very lucky to meet such a nice young woman. I was nervous about the baby because that involved two relationships, but it worked out great!

What has been the best thing about the program? The most frustrating?

The best thing about the program is the professionalism of the staff. The introduction/training provided was a good foundation.  Jill’s (mentoring specialist) support was invaluable during the first several months.

The best thing about the mentor relationship is watching Rae Ann mature and feeling so proud when she works through issues that someone her age should not have to worry about.  I am constantly impressed with her positive attitude and resourcefulness.

 Have you learned anything?

I have learned that supporting doesn’t mean fixing her problems.  Rae Ann has faced many difficult situations that required problem solving and self-confidence.  She has always come through for herself and her daughter. I would not say it’s frustrating, but sometimes she makes decisions that are different than I would choose.  Although I would like her to see the issue my way, I try not to make judgments about her choices. I just continue to talk about the pros and cons of decisions.

There have been several times I have received texts/phone calls about random good and bad events.  It makes me happy that she thinks of me when something comes up in her life that she wants to share with a friend.  She invited me to the baby’s first birthday party. I was able to meet her family and share that happy event with her.

Do you have favorite activity or funny memory?

We spent lots of time eating together during the first 6 months.  This continues to be something we enjoy.  We also enjoy cooking together.  One night we were making lasagna and had to call the fire department because we smelled gas.  We evacuated the baby and dogs to the car and Rae Ann waited for all clear to go back into the house to get the lasagna to take home with her.

Any advice for new mentors?

Take your cues from the youth you are working with.  Try to lean in and make a connection.  The relationship takes time to develop. Shared activities/memories are a good basis to develop a friendship.  Also, be careful what you say.  I have put my foot in my mouth several times. Rae Ann is very forgiving, but I never want to hurt her feelings. Lastly, use Jill (or your mentoring specialist) as a resource. When I am not sure what to do or need help and do not know where to go, I call Jill. She is always available to listen and offer advice.

How has your experience been as a mentor since Rae Ann has turned 21?

Raeann and I both got busy and I work during the day and she works evenings. Sometimes it is hard for us to get together.  I would say the relationship is more natural and less planned.  In the beginning, we met regularly and for a shorter time.  Now we sometimes do not see each other for several weeks and then we might spend the whole day together.  I know the people in her life that she talks about and she knows my family and close friends.

I wanted a volunteer activity that would allow me spend my time doing something I enjoy.  I always look forward to spending time with Rae Ann and her daughter.  We shop, go to bookstores, have lunch, visit amusement parks, cook, do crafts, talk, deal with day-to-day problems and enjoy each other’s company. I would highly recommend mentoring.

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Life After Foster Care: Through the Eyes of a Mentee

Life After Foster Care – My mentor makes my life a little easier

When a youth leaves the foster care system, I think it is a bittersweet moment for the youth (actually now an adult), mentors, and staff.  I was recently very fortunate to meet up with Rae Ann, now 22, and her 2-year-old daughter to catch up on the last 18 months and to learn how her mentor supported her during this transitory time. As we grabbed a quick lunch, it was clear that anytime Mary Beth’s name was mentioned, Rae Ann would light up.

Rae Ann has known her mentor, Mary Beth, for two years now.  Rae Ann is quick to share that Mary Beth is one of her best friends.  They usually meet once a week and talk and text and are pretty much like most girlfriends.

However, Rae Ann really credits Mary Beth for her daughter’ developmental advancement.  Mary Beth is a teacher, a mom and constantly offering Rae Ann insight as well as support with learning materials.  One of Rae Ann’s favorite things about Mary Beth is watching her interact with her daughter, an adorable toddler filled with energy.

Rae Ann feels like she is not so alone in the world thanks to Mary Beth.  She said that Mary Beth also makes life a little easier for a single mom.  She shares, “It’s good to have a mature friend,” as some of her peers may have different priorities than Rae Ann.

Rae Ann and her daughter also love doing new things with Mary Beth.  They love to try new places to eat, go to music classes, explore new areas and just enjoy the lazy river at Sesame Place.

Rae Ann is grateful for how “resourceful” Mary Beth is; if it wasn’t for her, Rae Ann says she wouldn’t have a car or a fun place to spend the holidays.

Now, Rae Ann lives in her own apartment and spends her time working in a local grocery store and caring for her daughter.  She adores being a mom and is overjoyed that she can share her experience with Mary Beth.  As her daughter grows and completes milestones, she knows that there will be someone in her corner for the ups and downs.

The Honeymoon Phase: A Mentoring Story

The Honeymoon Phase – Ashley* & Ashley*

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“I always wanted to know another Ashley, “ Ashley, the mentee, tells me of her relationship with her mentor, also named Ashley.

This funny coincidence, that also has been known to confuse the staff, really encapsulates their budding friendship.  Ashley and Ashley are in, what we affectionately call, the ‘honeymoon phase’ since they have only been meeting for about four months.  They are just getting to know one another, testing out the waters, and having some fun while they are it!  Sound familiar?

However, Ashley (the mentee) tells me there is a strong, emerging connection that belies this typically more surface stage of mentoring relationships.  Before she met her mentor, Ashley says she was nervous because she didn’t know what her mentor was like but the instant she met her mentor, she felt more comfortable because (mentor) Ashley’s excitement was contagious.

Ashley (mentee) states she has been enjoying the “adventure” ever since then.  Whether it’s playing basketball, going ice skating, or browsing the book store, Ashley (mentee) says she loves to “have someone to talk to.”

Over the next few months as the ‘Ashleys’ progress into the ‘closeness stage’ of the mentoring relationship, mentee Ashley just looks forward to seeing where the relationship takes them, but is glad that, as she transitions into independent living, her mentor will remain a familiar face.

It also seems that both Ashleys share the compassionate trait, as they are hoping to do some volunteer work together.  They are both pretty hands on, so they’re thinking that Habitat for Humanity might be their next adventure.

Stay Tuned!

*names have been changed to protect the privacy of participants

Book Recommendations: Good Reads in honor of National Mentoring Month!

Here are some books that the Tabor Mentoring Program recommends to our mentors and anyone that is interested in mentoring! Some are based on true stories, some are non-fiction, some are quick reads, some take a little more time–all are great!– click each title to find out more about the book!

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