February 2, 2024
The Mentor Committee: How Reading Partners North Texas is supporting their AmeriCorps members in new ways
“Hearing about someone’s professional journey and how they got to where they are is enlightening. No one’s path is the same, and some struggle more than others, the power in this is knowing that different paths can lead to your overall goal.” -Andrea Ramirez, Reading Partners North Texas AmeriCorps member ’24
In the 2020-21 school year, Reading Partners North Texas introduced an innovative mentorship program tailored for AmeriCorps members. It all started when we sent out a survey to current AmeriCorps members asking for feedback on their experience. The results revealed a high level of satisfaction with their term of service, as well as opportunities for growth in translating learned skills to their resumes and future goals.
The Mentor Committee of Reading Partners North Texas
With this data in hand, we got to work. Three team members, including a North Texas program manager, a community engagement team member, and a development manager, collaborated to form the Mentor Committee. The committee’s primary objective was to develop a program that empowered AmeriCorps members to establish mentor relationships aligned with their interests, which would enhance their understanding of potential career paths, refine their resume and interview skills acquired at Reading Partners, and help them build confidence in discussing the merits of their service with prospective employers. Through seamless collaboration across all three departments, the program was successfully launched in October 2020.
A key feature of the program was encouraging AmeriCorps members to specify their future career goals, enabling the Mentor Committee to meticulously hand-select mentors who would be an excellent fit for each participant. Once AmeriCorps members are matched with a mentor, they build their mentor/mentee relationship by meeting monthly in person or virtually to work on personal and professional goals. This personalized approach ensured a highly successful and impactful program experience for all involved.
A wonderful aspect of the program is that members work on a professional portfolio. They are able to create a digital or physical portfolio that they will have to support their next life/career move. They receive support and feedback from their mentor when creating this portfolio and they are able to present it at an end-of-the-year mentor celebration event.
An interview with an AmeriCorps member and mentee
I interviewed one of our North Texas AmeriCorps members, Andrea Ramirez, and asked about her experience with the mentor program and the multiple mentors she’s had. Below you will see the benefit of this program from a North Texas AmeriCorps member who has had more than one mentor.
Karla Gurley: Why did you decide to get a mentor while serving with Reading Partners North Texas?
Andrea Ramirez: At the time that we signed up for mentors, I had recently graduated with my Bachelor’s in Public Health. There were different things I was interested in doing within this field, but my worry was I wasn’t sure what the day-to-day looked like and I didn’t know who to talk to about it. I’m also always looking for opportunities to grow and what better way to grow than to talk with someone in the field of my interest?
KG: Can you describe your mentor/mentee relationship in three words?
AR: Encouraging, Supportive, and Inspiring
KG: What has made your mentor/mentee relationship the most valuable?
AR: I was very fortunate to have gotten paired with two mentors. They connected me with another person in the administrative department that dealt with more of the field that I was primarily interested in. From that, we were able to create an internship where I would be working with the environmental care emergency management (ECEM) officer at All Saints. I was also able to shadow both of my mentors along with keeping a part-time internship within the ECEM department for 10 months.
KG: What are your plans after your term of service with Reading Partners? Did your mentor assist in any way with this?
AR: My plans after service are to find an entry-level administrative job. I’m also looking to apply for the Texas Public Health Fellowship, and I know that this experience has helped me build new skills as well as just expose me to the work environment of a hospital. This opportunity has also allowed me to form connections with amazing people in leadership who could potentially help me further reach my goals. My mentors prepared me for this moment by helping build up my resume and simply allowing me to act as a sponge as I soak up all of their helpful advice.
KG: What would you share with someone who is considering having a mentor?
AR: “Hearing about someone’s professional journey and how they got to where they are is enlightening. No one’s path is the same, and some struggle more than others, the power in this is knowing that different paths can lead to your overall goal.”
The power of mentorship
One thing I know for sure, there is beauty in connections and mentorship. I remember early in my career as an educator I wanted a mentor. I asked someone with years of experience, “Will you mentor me?” and she said yes. I was surprised at her response and thankful to myself for being courageous in asking for a mentor.
All these years later, I still meet with my mentor and we talk about a variety of things, not just professional/career-related goals. It is helpful to have someone in your life who is not your spouse, partner, sibling, or colleague to bounce ideas off of and give you feedback and constructive criticism in different areas. Personal growth is important and having a mentor can aid in this. As the world changes and develops, we as individuals must be open to change and developing right along with it. A good mentor can be very beneficial in this process.
Mentors can be the catalyst for the change someone may need in their life. Oprah worded it well when she said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” In this ever-changing world, if there is one thing we need, it is hope. When we start to lose hope, we must remind ourselves of the good that exists inside of ourselves, in our communities, and in the larger society that we are a part of. The Reading Partners North Texas Mentor Committee is thrilled to foster hope through the power of mentorship for our AmeriCorps members.
Written by Karla M. Gurley (Reading Partners North Texas program manager) and Kim Taylor (Reading Partners North Texas development director).