As National Mentoring Month comes to a close, we wanted to share a few more stories from our dedicated Summer Search staff about why they do this work: mentoring young people and helping them strengthen the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
In case you missed it, you can read Part One here.
Tolu Oladele, Philadelphia
Tolu (center) and two of his high school juniors, Jose and Kiyneeanay
“I gravitated to Summer Search, and mentoring in general, for the moments, both good and bad. Seeing the growth of a student — from their first interview with us, the reflection they complete after their summer trip, and the soft skills they develop throughout our program — is incredible. It’s rewarding work to give back to students who look like me and are faced with similar changelings as me in high school and to walk along with them in that process.
“My favorite moments are seeing a student set and achieve goals. For instance, a student making the honor roll for the first time in their high school career — they took a dream and attached a deadline to it, and executed. Another favorite moment is when students get back from their first summer trip. That’s when they can use their [summer] experience to drive them in various areas in their life in a positive manner.”
Sharon Lebenkoff, Bay Area
A few of Sharon’s students on a summer experience.
“I am a mentor, and I LOVE it! It is an honor and a privilege to do this work.
“As a mentor, my greatest fulfillment is when a student faces a fear and then discovers something new about themselves. I’ve had students who thought they were afraid of water, but then went on a kayaking trip and found a new passion. I’ve had students who labeled themselves as shy and socially-awkward, but after setting some goals and stepping outside of their comfort zone, they are now confident and outgoing leaders.
“Many of the students we work with have been marginalized and underserved as a result of systems of oppression in our country. This is such a critical time in our country to be talking about these systems and doing all that we can to resist them. I am continually blown away by my students’ ability to think critically about the world around them and to make connections between the political and the personal.
“I want to thank Summer Search for giving me the opportunity to do this incredible work every day. I also want to thank my own mentors for helping me to face my fears, discover my passions, and to continually reflect on how I can live my life according to my values.
“Most of all, I want to thank my students for being the courageous, thoughtful, altruistic, caring, and determined young people that they are. I love you all and can’t wait to see what unfolds for you as you continue on the path of self-discovery!”
Thank you x7 to all of our Summer Search mentors, past and present, for everything that you do for our students!