This blog post was written by Program Intern Olaya Barr, who participated in the Mentor Training II workshop on January 25th.
I didn’t grow up with a mentor figure during my adolescence. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what a mentor’s responsibilities were.
Let me see… a mentor was someone who helped you succeed in the SATs so you could frolic along the halls of Harvard? Or, taught you how to catch a baseball with the fervor of Geena Davis in A League of Their Own? Or maybe a mentor was someone who baked cookies and inspired you to be the next Martha Stewart (without the jail time and tax evasion)?
Okay, so frankly I didn’t know what a mentor was exactly; the only definition I had was that a mentor was someone who inspires and guides you as a young person. But being part of the Mentor Training II workshop last week has helped me see the complexity of Girls Write Now mentor-mentee relationships. My recent revelation: the positive support that mentors provide is reciprocated and the relationship between mentors and mentees is very much a mutually beneficial affair. The inspiration and guidance runs in both directions.
During the workshop I was surprised by the diversity of the mentors, likely a reflection of the diversity of the mentees. Some women spoke with professional finesse, others with animated colloquialisms; but they all seemed to exude the same passion for their role as mentor. The workshop was a space to voice concerns about making sure the girls were getting the most of the program, and to share anecdotes about the mentoring process. Every mentor was sincerely invested in their relationship with their mentee; I assume not only because they wanted their mentees to become more skilled and confident writers, but also because those relationships have helped the mentors feel a profound sense of purpose.
Over sandwiches and oatmeal cluster cookies I chatted with any mentor close by about her experience so far. It was clear that the mentors not only impacted the mentees (“You’ve made me a better writer and a stronger, more determined human being,” reads a letter written by a mentee), but that the mentees also influenced and inspired the mentors (“I love your bravery, the way you stretch yourself when something is scary,” reads a note from a mentor).
This mentor-mentee relationship could almost be described as a lifestyle choice. Both parties make sacrifices of sorts. Mentees open up and reveal their vulnerabilities; mentors dedicate time and patience to make these decisions feel validated. Both meet half way at coffee shops in downtown Manhattan, in Long Island bookstores, or at a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Both the mentors and mentees seem to understand that this connection, this exchange of thoughts, yields positivity for everyone involved.
The mentors here at Girls Write Now aren’t exactly academic leaders, or alternative BFFs, or surrogate figures. They are people to share with. Share fears, share goals, share collaborations and writing tips, share aspirations. I’m starting to see that it’s definitely more than baking cookies or having a writing pal.
Even though Mentor Appreciation Month is just now coming to an end, my internship is just beginning here. I’ll continue to appreciate the mentors, especially since I never had one as my own.