College Connections volunteers weigh in on the importance of mentors

For Mentor Appreciation Day 2016, we asked our College Connections Mentors to weigh in on the importance of mentors in their life and why they chose to give back through the Schuler Scholar Program. Here is what they had to say:

Why did you decide to join the Schuler College Connections Mentoring Program?

Jon: My answer at its' simplest form, is that I felt strongly connected to the mission of the Schuler Scholar Program - to empower driven people who didn't necessarily have the financial means to do so.  As the son of Taiwanese immigrants, growing up in America was a little tough at first.  My parents were very loving and gave me everything they had (and still do to this day), but they struggled to help me acclimate to the American school/professional/social environment.  As result, I had a lot of help when I was growing up and still do to this day.  

Celina: I joined the Schuler mentoring program because I had such a wonderful college experience and I wanted to help others have a similar experience. The start to college can be an exciting but also stressful time so I hope having someone who has been there before to talk to can help ease the transition for Schuler Scholars. 

David: I joined because my wife introduced me to the Schuler mission and I thought it was worthwhile.  I was intrigued with the idea of working with promising students who were often first in their families to attend college.

Hannah: As a recent college graduate, I understand that starting college can be a huge and often challenging transition. I joined the Schuler mentoring program because I wanted to use my recent experience to support our Scholars through this process. I also wanted Scholars to feel that their connections with the Schuler staff doesn’t end when high school does, but rather those relationships can continue and grow throughout college.

What do you most enjoy about being a mentor for Schuler Scholars?

Jon:  One of the greatest parts about being a mentor is getting to know your mentees and being a part of helping them accomplish their dreams and build a great life for themselves and their families.  I also really enjoy just building a good relationship with someone as they go into one of the most fun and challenging milestones of their lives.  

Celina: I really enjoy getting to know the Schuler Scholars. They are such amazing and motivated individuals. I love hearing about their college experiences and if I can be of any help at all that's wonderful. I can't wait to see what the Scholars I am working with accomplish!

David: I enjoy watching my Scholars mature.  I also enjoy when there are occasional problems because often the problems seem much bigger to the Scholar than they really are. It is rewarding to “teach” them how to navigate life rather than simply do it for them.

Hannah: I feel lucky to know my mentee Diana, since I was one of her Scholar Coaches at Highland Park High School. I enjoy every time I get to talk to Diana about her experiences and especially when we get to bond over our shared women’s college experiences. Going to a women’s college is a very unique college experience and I feel lucky that I get to offer advice, support, and answer questions for Diana as she begins to live in this new and exciting community.

Why are mentors important?  How have mentors shaped you?

Jon:  For me, the two biggest benefits from mentors is 1) Just having someone who successfully understands the landscape (whichever that may be), which enables your own success, and 2) having someone who believes and has faith in you, and can act as a trusting advisor (through any circumstance). I had a lot of questions that most people would have considered 'dumb', having a mentor was extremely helpful because they understood where I was coming from, they could give me much better personalized advice, and they never stopped believing in me.  They are responsible for a large part of my success thus far today.

Celina: Having a mentor to seek guidance and reassurance from can be comforting when other people in your life may not be able to relate to what you may be facing.  I've been fortunate to have a series of mentors throughout my life so far who have been integral in helping me make life and career decisions. I'm grateful for the valuable advice and confidence they have given me and I know I'll continue to rely on mentors in the future.

David: I have been lucky to have had a number of mentors in my career.  I feel mentors are important in that they often can help you see situations in a far more simple or strategic way than you are looking at them.  Sort of “forest and trees”…mentors have often helped me see what is important in chaotic or challenging situations and helped me stay focused upon my professed goals. Ultimately my mentors have provided role models to which I’ve aspired, and this has been a force to “shape” me.

Hannah: Mentors can have an important role in an individual’s personal development. I have relied on my own mentors during the most confusing periods of my life (usually transitions), when I ask myself large and difficult questions about community and future goals. And my own mentors asked me important questions, offered perspective, and rooted for me. It’s important to have people in our lives who see the potential that we cannot necessarily see in ourselves. For me, mentors have been a pillar of support, guidance, and affirmation, and I hope to offer that to my College Scholar as well.

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