Authors: Luis Fernando Briseño Cruz & Kate Greenaway
Now that I’m almost finished with my university career, I can look back and see what a huge difference it made that I was sponsored by Jóvenes Adelante. I have been given so much. I had encouragement every step of the way, for five whole years. It’s amazing to me that Jóvenes Adelante had so much faith in me because five years ago, they didn’t even know me! And they gave me so much more than scholarship money. They cared about me as an individual and supported me while I grew as a person.
I was especially lucky with my mentor, Frank. When Frank and I first met, he didn’t speak any Spanish and I only had a very beginner English from prepa. It was awkward! But I decided right then to not be shy even when I was making a lot of errors. Frank really wanted to be helpful, so I just had to show courage and take the opportunity to learn English with someone so encouraging and patient – and my English has improved so much!
What I loved about JA was how they inspired me to expand my horizons. The older students made me realize that I could even think about traveling, and last year I went with a team from school to a competition in Brazil! Representing Mexico at an international competition — and placing third — was a dream come true for me. It has motivated me to set my sights even higher.
This is why I decided to honour Jóvenes Adelante during our Posada in December. I wanted to say a public thank you to the staff, board and volunteers. Actually, I wanted to do more than simply say thank you, so I decided to have a plaque made that I could present at that event.
Jóvenes Adelante expects you to reach for the stars, and if you make the effort to reach for your dream, they will come on board with any extra support you need.
So I really encourage my fellow students to take advantage of being in the Jóvenes Adelante family. Don’t be afraid to set your sites high and to talk about your dreams. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Luis Fernando Briseño Cruz
How I, a German Volunteer, came to support Jóvenes Adelante ************ Como yo, una voluntaria alemana, empezaba a apoyar a Jóvenes Adelante
Author: Franziska Ulmer
For April McGee, becoming a Jóvenes Adelante mentor was not a snap decision. In fact, it took a couple of years to make the leap. As much as April felt connected to the program’s mandate and loved the students she’d met, she wanted to be sure that her Spanish was strong enough to make the relationship comfortable and productive. Eighteen months ago, with intermediate level Spanish under her belt, she volunteered to be matched with first-year Communications student Cynthia Rodríguez Álvarez.
For Cynthia, similarly, becoming a mentee was a bit of a process. While April describes Cynthia as “a very independent young woman,” Cynthia remembers being shy and uncertain about what to expect of the relationship. But she also remembers warming quickly to April’s genuine interest in her success and her steadfast “I’m here for you, whatever you need” approach. Now, with Cynthia well into her second year of university, their relationship is relaxed and good-humored, and it’s clear that they both enjoy the other’s company. Their conversations are anchored in Cynthia’s university life, but they also share an interest in travel, and in each other’s cultures and personal histories.
As we talk, Cynthia becomes thoughtful as she describes how April’s support complements what she receives from her family. While her mom is proud of her and supports her career aspirations, she hasn’t personally experienced the ups-and-downs and stresses of university life. For her, it’s difficult to appreciate the various complexities Cynthia encounters, and to provide the practical suggestions that April has at her fingertips. Cynthia explains, “When I’m stressed about school, which happens quite often, my family usually tells me ‘don’t worry about it.’ Sometimes, that’s not what I need. I need advice and encouragement from someone who’s actually been there, who really understands what I’m going through. I can really be honest with April and she knows how to be there for me.”
April lives in Patzcuaro now, so they rely on WhatsApp, phone calls and April’s bi-monthly visits to San Miguel. April reaches out frequently, saying that it’s just as important to share what she is doing as it is to ask Cynthia what’s going on with her. And she highlights how much she enjoys exposing Cynthia to new experiences and ideas – a day trip together to Guanajuato, coursework-related events and travel, getting a passport – which she sees it as a big part of her role.
As JA prepares for the 2019 intake of 25 new students, finding mentors for each of them is a high priority. Equally important is creating mentor-mentee matches that really stick. April and Cynthia reached a quick consensus on their advice to new mentors and students: “Be open. Be available. Listen to each other. Trust that you will figure it out, together, and that it will be worth it.”
Jóvenes Adelante unlocks a radically expansive future for SMA youth by easing financial barriers to higher education and by intentionally nurturing their life skills and leadership abilities. For information, to join our mailing list or to become a sponsor or volunteer, visit our website www.jovenes.adelante.org, call 415-150-0030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact JA’s newest board member Nora Weaver, at email@example.com.
Jóvenes Adelante's mission is to unlock a radically more expansive future for SMA youth by easing financial barriers to higher education, and by developing life and leadership skills. For information, to join our mailing list, or to become a sponsor, mentor or volunteer, please visit our website jovenesadalante.org, call 415 150 0030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org