by Kali’ Rourke
I started mentoring this year, after nearly a decade of helping provide opportunities for others to mentor.
Why did I wait so long?
Well, based on my experiences with another program, I thought I wasn’t good at it. You see, I had been thrown into challenging situation pools with little training or support…and I drowned.
Mentee 1 announced to me at the end of her 7th grade year that she had “decided to flunk.” I was appalled and said all of the wrong things. She said that flunking meant summer school, where she would “get food every day, see friends, and avoid her sister’s boyfriend.” The water slipped ever deeper over my head. I felt powerless and that I must have failed.
I tried with Mentee 2, and again, was totally out of my depth. She was an extremely manipulative person and was in the relationship for what she thought she could get out of it. I had no strategies for setting healthy boundaries. After months of becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the situation, I fled and vowed I would never mentor again.
God laughs at “never.”
When the Seedling Foundation decided to create a mentoring program at the request of Austin ISD, my opportunity to change things arrived. As President of the Board, I requested we flip the existing paradigm and invest our resources in the mentoring adults. Mentors should be a self-renewing resource, but due to inadequate training and support, society is simply wasting them. They come when called, have terrible experiences, and like me, never mentor again.
Seedling’s Promise was born and under the direction of our experienced counseling professionals, it has become an amazingly successful program.
But enough about the past. Let’s talk about now, when I am mentoring a first grader who has sparkling brown eyes, the personality to match, and an imagination that delights me every time we spend lunch time together. Milk cartons become princesses, and chicken nuggets become “booty,” to be gleefully scooped up and savored. I bring baby carrots with me, and together we are bunnies for a few minutes, imagining what sounds bunnies make as they munch.
A couple of weeks ago, I tried a little game that another Mentor with Seedling had recommended. It is called “The Best and The Worst,” and you ask each other what was the very best thing that happened to you all week and what was the very worst thing that happened to you all week.
I explained the game to her and asked her, “What was the very best thing that happened to you last week?” She looked at me with a very serious look on her face, and said…”When you came.”
I was stunned. As I left that day and reflected over the next week or so, it just kept amazing me that I was someone’s “very best thing.” How many times in our lives do we get that chance?
I am a Mentor. Join me and be a special little someone’s “very best thing.”
Kali’ is a philanthropist and volunteer, a wife and mother, a writer and a singer and an agent for positive change in Austin, Texas. Oh, and she is a Mentor!