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January 3, 2018

Three stories of mentoring inspiration from the DC community

Erika’s story: Sports idol teaches life lessons

Erika Brosnihan is a community engagement associate at Reading Partners DC

I started skateboarding when I was eight years old. By the time I was in middle school, I had several sponsorships, and I was the most popular female skateboarder in the DC area. I could not have done it without the support of my mentor, Allen. I met Allen at the local skatepark that I attended almost every day, where he taught me how to skateboard. Once Allen started mentoring me, he had a significant impact on my life in my ways. He showed me how to believe in myself, persevere through life’s challenges, and never give up. He inspired me to be the best version of myself. All of this through skateboarding

As a mentor to a Reading Partners student, I want to have the same impact that Allen had on me. My top priority is to build students up into confident learners and individuals and to push them to their fullest potential.

As a reading partner, I use literacy as a tool to empower my students, the same way skateboarding empowered me.

I am still in contact with Allen, and he continues to be my mentor. Here’s a clip of me and Allen skating almost 15 years ago.

Aurora’s story: Compassionate caregiver models a spirit of generosity

Aurora Milas is the individual giving manager at Reading Partners DC

Dominique Spencer is a deeply dedicated early childhood professional and my former supervisor, mentor, and now my friend. Dominique has a love for the city of Washington, DC and its students. She has an exceptionally special place in her heart and mind for helping our youngest students, particularly students of color, thrive from early stages of child development.

My first time teaching in a 2-year-old classroom, Dominique guided my path, not only from the early childhood best practices perspective but also from a deeper place. A place where the roles of parent/caregiver and activist converge to expose love and understanding; a place where the best teachers flourish. And I wanted to be the best teacher I could possibly be. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of each child in my classroom.

As a mentor to my Reading Partners students, I now approach my students with refreshed perspective. I approach each session with empathy and an understanding that there are many potential stressors in the young person’s life that can influence his/her behavior and learning level, but not their ability to learn. I believe all children can learn and it is my hope that I help my students believe in themselves.

Dominique should know that because of her unyielding love and dedication to the youngest students in the District, she is making the world a better place, one young child at a time; one teacher at a time.

And she has influenced my life and my role as a mentor, too.

Zoë’s story: Learning beyond the lecture

Zoë Seaman-Grant is an AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator at Reading Partners DC

My most important mentor is a professor of mine from college. During college, I was really struggling to figure out what I wanted to do after finishing school. I studied gender studies, which is a pretty broad subject and doesn’t have a very clear career path. After telling my professor about my confusion, she had an amazing talk with me where we discussed all of my options after college. She pushed me to pursue the things I love and, unlike other teachers and friends, she urged me to prioritize the things that emotionally satisfy me rather than the jobs that are the most “practical” or pay the most.

Additionally, I’ve always wanted to go to law school but had always been nervous that I might not be smart enough or driven enough to succeed at law school. When I expressed these concerns to her, my professor immediately told me that I should go after the things I want.

Without hesitation, she had full confidence in me.

I’m now applying to law school and she still checks in about how things are going since I graduated. It’s really awesome knowing that I have someone to reach out to whenever I’m struggling with decisions or feel nervous about pursuing something I really want.

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