by She Flies With Her Own Wings
“Mentoring is a brain to pick,
an ear to listen,
and a push in the right direction”
I became an official mentor this past September when I signed up with Citizens for Safe Schools. Being a mentor was something I had always wanted to do, and I finally decided I had the time. I knew it would be a challenge, but I had always imagined my mentee to be someone who had the same/similar interests as myself; someone who liked sports, enjoyed the outdoors, and could be girly at times. Then I met Hayley, who was probably the opposite of me; she liked scary movies, playing video games, and anything black.
The first few times we hung out, I was worried about what to do and what we were going to talk about. How were we going to connect? I quickly learned that as nice as it is to have things in common with people, it’s not really what matters. It’s not what being a mentor is about. Despite our differences, I became someone she could ask for advice and an opinion…I wasn’t her mom, a sister, or a classmate…I was someone who was older with more experience, but I wasn’t someone who was going to get her in trouble or lecture her. I was someone she could trust. With that trust I became an ear for her to talk to…she could talk and talk, about anything, and I didn’t always have to have something to say in return. I just listened. Sometimes, I’ve learned, listening is more than enough and can do more than any piece of advice.
I like to think I’ve helped push her in the right direction, or more so helped her discover that she can push herself in the right direction. I like to think I’ve made a positive difference in her life and had an everlasting impression. I know she’s helped push me and taught me a lot along the way.
Mentoring was also something I loved about the Miss America Organization. Through the Teen program and the Sister Act, this organization offers so many ways to serve as a mentor. It’s an opportunity that I have taken advantage of . I’ve been fortunate enough to build bonds with my teens and princess outside of appearances and competition; from texting/keeping in touch, girls nights, to watching baseball games and other sporting events together. Something I really love about the teens is being able to help them work on their personal platforms and watch them develop as young women and give back to their communities. I’m not just a role-model to them…they inspire me on a daily basis. They challenge me and believe in me, they’re a big part of the reason I am who I am.
As the oldest of three siblings, I’ve found that in a way, I’ve been a mentor since day one. Those who are younger, especially little kids, watch your every move and hear everything that leaves your mouth. They pick up everything you do, and in their own way, copy it. So I’ve made it a priority to set a good example, to make being nice and respectful the “cool” thing to do. I’ve been so fortunate to not only have my little sister as my biological sister, but also as my pageant sister. This past year of service that we’ve shared together has brought us so much closer, and we’ve been able to help each other grow as individuals as well.
The truth is, we all need mentors throughout our lives. Whether that person is a activity/hobby mentor, academic mentor, a career mentor, or a life mentor. It doesn’t matter if we’re 5 or 50, we all need people to help show us the ropes and set an example. I can think of countless people who have helped me get to where I am, and who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today. There aren’t enough words for me to thank those people, I will be forever grateful to them.
I’ve realized that mentoring is a big part of why I want to be a teacher. Being a teacher is so much more than teaching a specific subject and implementing curriculum. It’s about having everyday contact with the same group of people for an entire year. Being a constant supporter, rock, someone they can look up to and rely on…it’s about being a mentor to the future of our country and world.
My ‘job’ as an official mentor, a sister, and as a titleholder in the Miss America Organization will always be a few of my favorite jobs; jobs that I hold dear to my heart. I’m excited for the day that I get to add teacher to that list of jobs.
Mentoring can change a life, and ultimately save a life. Be a mentor.