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