Michelle is an educator at St. Paul City School and has served as a mentor for multiple ABF grantees.
What do you think these experiences taught your mentees?
I think the experiences taught my mentees how to go out in the world with respect, responsibility and gratitude. Those are the three values I discuss with mentees and expect from them throughout the process. Respect is treating others and the world with peace and kindness. Responsibility is taking care of your time and resources—as well as using effective communication. Gratitude is always showing heartfelt thanks for gifts given. My goal is to bring mentees into the world to represent their community, their family, and—most importantly—themselves, towards their best light. And I see my mentees consistently showing their true and wonderful light!
Why do you think the grants were important for your mentees?
For the mentees from St. Paul City School, they may not have had access to these opportunities without the support of the Ann Bancroft Foundation. Over 95% of our students live at poverty level, with 67% non-English speakers. A majority of our mentees face socio-economic and cultural challenges. Dare to Dream activities help girls learn to meet and rise above these challenges. These grants are important for instilling resilience and confidence through opportunity. Our mentees learn how to go out into the world and hold themselves tall in any situation.
How do you see/feel/experience the ripple effect of these grants in the life of your mentees?
The biggest ripple I experience is in the school setting. Since I am also my mentees’ reading teacher, I am gratified to see them all working and learning together productively in the classroom. I think the grants are a big motivation to perform well in school—both academically and socially. They always have Dare to Dream activities to look forward to each week! I do see their literacy skills rise, since they have more colorful real world experiences to draw on for reading, writing and speaking work.
The other thing I notice is the great pride and glow of their families! I know families really appreciate the mentees’ achievements. ABF grants bring families together in celebration of their daughters!
One story I have is about an 11 year old mentee I had this last spring. She came to our school two years ago from Honduras, with little to no English. This young lady was also born with physical challenges in her respiratory system and a differently formed arm. Through her Dare to Dream funded lessons at Foss Swim School, she learned to swim. She gained strength, confidence and communication skills. By the end of three months of lessons, she was not only swimming and speaking English in complete sentences—she also told me her doctor said she no longer needed an oxygen tank at night for breathing! This is the kind of goodness ABF helps bring about!
What are the challenges in being a mentor? Rewards?
Since St. Paul City School has the largest number of mentees in the state for the last several years, the biggest challenge was organizing logistics of mentee activities and transportation. Several of our mentees did not have ready access to and from activities. Together with several other school staff members, we worked together to create a calendar and driving schedule. We then had training to use our school vans for transportation. It was a village effort!
The rewards of mentoring were coming to know each mentee on an individual basis, and who they truly are inside from their life experiences. There is much diversity in our school. It was fun to learn about that diversity, as well as experience family support. Since we spend so much time together away from school, I get to see more lovely facets of our mentees. Each girl has a fascinating and compelling story. I’m always honored and humbled when a mentee opens up to me, to share her hopes, fears and future dreams.
How has being a mentor and this experience impacted you?
The biggest impact is that this has driven my desire to volunteer more as an ABF mentor or elsewhere in our community. Seeing the effects of working with the mentees has been incredibly inspirational. It’s helped me better understand our local community and the individuals in it. I can see clearly how good brings about more good in the world, and each person can truly make a difference towards positive change. I feel mentoring for Ann Bancroft Foundation has helped me have a place in the world where I can take action! I love being a part of the ABF community—it is wonderfully warm and welcoming!
What would you tell others thinking about becoming a mentor?
Just do it! It is an amazing, unforgettable experience! You will learn much from your mentee.
ABF is there to support the journey you and your mentee will take! Enjoy every moment—in the moment—with your mentee and be prepared to see her rise up and shine!