When Hamere Mekonnen first met the student she would mentor four years ago, Stephanie Martinez was a shy, soft-spoken freshman at Westchester Academy. As their relationship grew during weekly lunchtime meetings, Mekonnen saw a girl grow into a more open, ambitious, confident young woman.
“The company is very supportive of us as mentors,” Mekonnen said .
Martinez credits her mentor for “helping me grow as a person, discover my personal strengths, take more risks, have confidence in myself, and being a big motivator and supporter of things I have tried.”
With her mentor’s encouragement, Martinez has gotten involved with several international service and learning organizations including The Experiment, Amigos and NeuroCamp. She also was one of 10 students selected to go to Japan (out of 3000 applicants!) in an exchange program sponsored by the Japan Foundation.
“I have a better appreciation for the power of youth and our impact on international relations,” Martinez said.
Mekonnen shared her experience of coming from Ethiopia to attend a small, liberal arts college in Michigan to inspire Martinez to apply to Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, where she has been accepted. “Imagine me coming from Ethiopia to Michigan,” Mekonnen told the student. “You can certainly be successful going from Texas to Pennsylvania!” Next year, Martinez plans to major in neuroscience on a pre-med track.
“I love learning about things outside of my intended major, too,” Martinez said. “Attending a small liberal arts college will allow me to explore other interests. My mentor helped guide me through the process of applying and to see myself in that environment.”
Both highly recommend the SpringBoard Mentoring experience to other students and community partners.
“It has been tremendous to see somebody grow and mature, and reach so many important milestones,” Mekonnen said. “It goes both ways: it is good for the mentee to have somebody to count on and talk things through with, and it is fulfilling for the mentor, too.”
“Having a mentor is about learning to grow through another person’s eyes,” Martinez said. “She helped me develop my values as we talked about school and life, and discussed books she recommended.”
The duo plans to continue their friendship beyond Martinez’s final school year in Spring Branch ISD. In a further testament to the power and benefits of mentoring relationships, she said, “I hope that once I get to college or sometime [in the future], that I can become a mentor, too.”
If you or your organization would like to get involved with the SpringBoard Mentoring Program in Spring Branch ISD, please contact email@example.com.
Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications