Friday, March 21, 2014

Reflections from a New Mentor

If I had been asked to mentor six months ago, I would have definitely been interested but probably would have declined, thinking it wouldn’t realistically fit into my busy schedule.    Between work and school I feel I barely have time for my important “me” time. However, I know that when I find something I truly want to do, I manage to find the time.  Yes, I want to help others and make this world a better place.  But building a relationship is not a task to draw a line through once accomplished.  I hadn’t anticipated how much mentoring would impact me.


In January, I started a one semester internship at Trusted Mentors as part of earning my masters in social work.  After a couple months connecting mentors and mentees, I knew I wanted to become involved more than professionally.  About a month ago I expressed my interest in becoming a volunteer mentor.  I had a general understanding of what that involved.  As Trusted Mentors works with individuals who are at risk of homelessness, I imagined applying mentoring in this context.


I admit, the idea of mentoring made me assess my knowledge of homelessness, and frankly, I found myself feeling a little insecure.  Though I feel stable and accomplished and therefore able to be a role model--what did I know about overcoming homelessness or poverty?  It is one thing to experience the stress of possible poverty, but quite another to actually experience it. Before my anxiety increased too much, I was quickly calmed by the Trusted Mentors staff who reassured me that the most important part of mentoring is building a healthy relationship.


What does a healthy relationship look like-- stable, trusting, accepting, supportive.  My mentee described a mentor as “someone I can be open and honest with, without any judgment.”  And I could help her reach her goals through “support… and be[ing] nice.”  I love my mentee’s answers and they gave me confidence that I can provide the support she needs.  


Having experienced prejudice and discrimination myself, I can relate to not wanting to be judged.  Mentoring started me thinking about what we each need, and supportive, positive relationships are a need I think we often don’t think about.  How often do we ask ourselves, “What healthy relationships do I have in my life?”  My appreciation for healthy relationships has greatly increased as I interact with individuals who have little or no support.  


As an intern, I am genuinely giddy to hear mentees benefiting from the mentoring process. I have not been matched very long, but I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about my mentee.  I see strengths and beautiful qualities in my mentee, which she doesn’t yet realize.  I am witnessing how a healthy relationship can help her view herself and her future more positively.  I feel myself learning and growing in bounds as my perspective broadens. I am deeply touched by her trust and vulnerability when she confides in me.  I look forward to our friendship growing over the following year and longer.

If you enjoy volunteering, I highly recommend giving mentoring a chance!


Marea Kinney is a Graduate Student Intern with Trusted Mentors through the IUPUI School of Social Work.