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January 29, 2018

Three stories of mentoring inspiration from the LA community

Viviana’s story: Inspired to pursue higher education

Viviana Martinez Reynaga is an intern from Cal State University Dominguez Hills serving at the Carthay Center Elementary reading center

My uncle has been one of the most important mentors in my life. He has been a big motivator for me throughout my education. He sparked my love for reading and inspired me to pursue higher education. I believe strong mentors are willing to help regardless of any frustrations that arise. They are willing to push forward and get things done despite roadblocks. And that’s just what my uncle did with me.

Both of my parents are English language learners, so they struggled a lot with helping me and my sister with homework and school projects. My uncle often stepped in to ensure we were excelling in school. Sometimes he was a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it came reading and writing in English. But, he pushed us to do our best and be successful.

Now that I have taken the next steps to achieve my college education, he has been very involved in helping me adjust to the higher education setting. It’s very difficult coming from a low income family having to navigate through the college experience, so I am grateful to have his support along the way.

My uncle has inspired me to push farther than I ever thought I could go. Today, he is the reason I decided to enter the field of human services with an emphasis on mental health recovery. I am forever grateful for all he has done to advocate and encourage me to complete my education.

Because of him, I’m striving to become a mentor for others.

 Rebecca Photo

Rebecca’s story: An introduction to civic engagement

Rebecca Garay is a senior site coordinator for Reading Partners Los Angeles

I have had several mentors in my life, but one in particular stands out in my mind. My seventh grade social studies teacher encouraged my growth as a leader and introduced me to civic engagement and community service. He was a very intelligent and wise person, who was very active in students’ academic achievement and extracurricular activities. He was the faculty advisor for the school’s interact club. The club of which I became president by eighth grade.

I believe the mark of a great mentor is someone who is invested in your growth and who will challenge you to push past your boundaries to reach your goals. And my mentor did just that. He was very supportive of my leadership skills and ideas, but he was also generous with his constructive feedback.

When I look back on my education, I see that his influence helped guide me to where I am today – in the middle of my third consecutive year of AmeriCorps service. He inspired me to be involved in the causes that are important to me and encouraged me to engage other students in leadership activities.

I remember the patience and understanding he had when I wanted to take on an ambitious project—how he encouraged and guided me through. Now, I am able to pay it forward to the students who I mentor. And that’s a great feeling.

As a mentor myself, I am aware of how impactful adult interactions can be with students. I try to be approachable and relatable while still maintaining a mature and professional appearance. I know from my own experiences, that this approach will set a positive example for my students and show them that I have respect for myself and for my students.

I also learned from my mentor, that students appreciate honesty and transparency. Young humans are very curious about why things are the way they are, and I strive to be open and clear in my communication.

If I could say anything to my mentor today, I would say,

Thank You for believing in me and supporting me at such a young age. Because of you, I have been able to take on leadership roles and believe in myself that I can enact change in the environments around me.

A moment that has stuck with me to this day, is when I culminated from middle school and my mentor asked me to invite him to my college graduation. He had confidence in me, which gave me confidence to achieve my goals.

Saray Photo

Saray’s story: Mentorship that encourages students to persevere

Saray Robles is a work study volunteer at the McKinley School reading center

I see the role of a mentor as having someone help you along the way towards accomplishing a goal. One mentor who I remember fondly from my early years is my soccer coach of three years. Even though he seemed grumpy sometimes, he was a good mentor and a good person. I respected how seriously he took his job.

He was a great mentor because he never gave up on his team, and he inspired me to never give up despite facing challenges. Every time I struggled, he never let me quit. I felt that he really believed in me. I remember once when I stepped in as a substitute for a player on the older kids’ team. They were taller and bigger than me but my coach supported me throughout the game.

I always knew he cared and that made a lasting impact on me. I’ve never forgotten him and he always remembers me and my family. We bump into him sometimes and it’s always a friendly conversation.

Now that I work with children at Reading Partners, I apply some of the strategies he used with me and my teammates. He taught me the benefits of tough love and how to support students through their challenges. There is no better feeling than accomplishing a hard task, and it’s an important way to help build students’ confidence.  

As I grow into my new role as a mentor, I want to work with students at their pace, to always remember that not all students learn the same. I want to be a positive motivator when they struggle and to create resilience when facing a challenge.

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