The following is a guest blog by #madeinutica friend Rachel Hayes.
Last year right around this time I was feeling like something was missing from my life. The holidays were over and I was left in a funk. I wanted to do something that made me feel like I was making an impact. So I did what any other 25 year old would do, I asked Google what I could do.
I ended up finding the New York State Mentoring Program. I decided to fill out an application. Turns out The Rome City School district was starting to implement this program within a month. I got the green light from work, went to a training program and was on my way to becoming a mentor!
The story I want to share with you today is how this Mentoring Program that I stumbled across at eleven o’clock one night, and applied without giving it much thought, has changed my life.
The beginning of the program the mentors and mentees did a lot of group activities so our Site Coordinator could determine who worked well together and pair us up. We had a few weeks of group activities before paring. The day of pairing came and our Site Coordinator went through one by one and paired us with our mentees. Slowly the group of mentees was getting smaller and smaller and I still wasn’t matched! I remember thinking that under no circumstance did I want this little boy who was one of the two left. He was rambunctious and didn’t seem to follow any directions. And what would you know, of course I was paired with him. I remember thinking that this was a mistake. I wanted to ask “why him?” I remember thinking that I didn’t think we would work well together. We would have nothing in common. I was worried to say the least.
The weeks to follow, I decided to put my negative thoughts aside and embrace this match. What else was I to do? I didn’t want to seem like this evil person who disliked this little boy I hardly knew. But that’s how I felt. To my surprise, my mentee and I began to really connect. He loves to talk. I also love to talk. We talked about tv shows, movies and video games. He loves to play Jenga. I love to play Jenga. He loves space. I love space. We spent a lot of time talking about time in space and black holes. I had just watched Interstellar so of course I was an expert on the subject.
By the end of the program, my mentee and I were besties.
We clicked in a way that I really never imagined we could. We had our good and bad days but him and I really bonded throughout the remaining school year. I didn’t want it to be over! Everyone had told me that they could see a change in him from the beginning of the program. I didn’t want to show it, but I was so excited. I felt like I had really done something important.
My original plan was at the start of the new school year, I would transfer to the Utica City School district. I wanted to be a little closer to work and home. But when I found out that we had the option to stay at our school and be paired up with our same mentee if they decided to join the program again, I jumped at the opportunity with hopes that we could be paired again in the upcoming school year. Little did I know that the re-districting that Rome was going through would cause him to be transferred to a different Elementary school.
Fast forward to the new school year, and I started the program again. To my disappointment, my mentee was not in the program. I decided not to ask about him. I was really upset but I couldn’t let that distract me from the students this year. I didn’t know where he was or how he was doing. I had hoped that he would remember me and this experience.
We are currently in the pairing stage again. This year, I really didn’t feel much of a connection with any of the students but I was hoping that would change once we were individually paired up.
What happened next was the best “bad news” I ever received.
I got a phone call from my Site Coordinator last week that changed everything. My mentee wasn’t doing well in his new program or at his new school. His new Site Coordinator tried to pair him up with someone before the rest of the group so he could get additional one on one time. When she mentioned this to him prior to mentoring he was very excited. When he arrived to mentoring that day, he looked around for his mentor and he repeatedly asked “Where is she? Where is she?” His new mentor re-introduced herself as his new mentor and he replied to the room, “That is NOT my mentor. I want my mentor!” He was talking about me! He was excited because he thought I was going to be there. I don’t think my heart has ever been as full as it was when I heard this story. Choked up with tears in my eyes, I let my Site Coordinator know that I would do ANYTHING that they needed from me.
Yesterday we were paired up again! We spent an hour catching up. When he first arrived to the program, he was upset. There was a lot of adjusting he was going though and it just wasn’t a good day. It took a few minutes to get him to calm down but we managed. I am not saying I am a child whisper by any means, but I managed to get him smiling by the end. That smile warmed my heart and made everything worth it. He is my mentee again and we will back to meeting once a week until the end of the school year!
I went into this program thinking that I would be able to make an impact on someone. Little did I know that this program would have such an impact on me. I don’t think my mentee will ever know what he has done for me. I have become a better listener and developed more patience since meeting him. I have learned to put aside whatever I am going through to put him first every time we meet. Also, I have learned about countless mythical creatures that I can’t call to or else they will wreak havoc on my life and haunt my house.
My mentee is eleven years old. He wants to be an inventor when he grows up. His favorite tv show is Doctor Who. He one of the smartest kids I know. He is my friend. And he changed my life.
There are New York State Mentoring programs in both the Rome and Utica School districts. Mentors need to complete fingerprinting and a background check along with a training program before they are able to be place into a program. The program is held once a week for an hour. Visit the website for more information and to apply. They are always looking for new people. Let some little boy or girl change your life as well!
Questions about mentoring? Slide into Rachel’s DMs @raehayes_