Hi ladies!

Guess what?! I got my mentee!!!!

Nervous about my first meeting!

The Orangewood Children’s Foundation called saying they found a match for me so I can begin the mentoring program. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was to meet my mentee for an informal meeting at the foundation to see if we were a match. All I know is that the girl is African American, 21 years old (gulp) and goes to college. She is very accomplished. She has a full scholarship to school, she is on the Leadership committee, she is one of the speakers for the foundation to talk to other kids going through the foster system, she is involved with her church.

“This person needs a mentor?!” I cry into the phone to the Program Coordinator. “She sounds like she has it all figured out. What could I possibly teach her?” I moan. “Remember, she is only 21,” the Coordinator says. “She’s in school and graduating soon. She will need help figuring out how to start life after school.” Hmmm…I think back to when I was 21. Oh god, I didn’t know anything! Okay, I get it now. I tell myself that there are things I can teach her. Even if I just vow to be there to listen to what she has to say.

I have to admit that I was very nervous about mentoring a black girl. NO I AM NOT A RACIST. It was more of being worried that she would think that we had nothing in common. Was I going to be that stereotype of the white woman helping the poor black kid? I really didn’t want that. And I certainly didn’t want her thinking that I was mentoring out of pity or seeing her as inferior. I didn’t feel that way. I don’t really care what color a person is, or where they are from, but to ignore stereotypes and society would be stupid. I work with people of all colors and backgrounds. I’m lucky to be in a creative industry that has lots of diversity. So I’m okay with it. But what if she is an angry young woman who hates white people or thinks that we would never understand since we were a different race? Oh the paranoia going through my head was making me crazy. Wait, I thought. She said she wanted a mentor. She went to the program for this purpose. She knows that I am white. And she agreed to meet me. So we are both probably feeling the same insecurity. Let’s hope.

The day of our meeting comes and I haven’t been this nervous since I don’t know when! It took me forever to decide what to wear. Do I go cool and hip and trendy? Do I go professional since this is sort of an interview? Oh somebody help me! I decide on basic pants and a blazer and very cool shoes. Shoes are always good. I drive to the meeting and get stuck in ridiculous traffic. I begin to sweat. Oh my God! I think back to the orientation how the two volunteer heads had stressed over and over that punctuality and reliability was key. Here I was not even beginning the program and I was failing! I frantically called the Coordinator and told her I would be a little late due to traffic. She seemed hesitant on the phone but said okay. Was I paranoid that she sounded disappointed?

I got there and ran into the building. The coordinator was at the front and didn’t seem too bent out of shape. We walk into the room and sitting there is a very pretty girl with sort of rust-colored corn rows and very funky glasses. She is well put together. She is attractive and trendy, trendy but in a sophisticated way. We smile and shake hands and I apologize profusely for being so late. The Coordinator asks her to talk first about herself and why she wants a mentor. Let me tell you, this young lady is so well-spoken, I am amazed. No, not because she is black – get over it people!! I am amazed because most of the kids I see today mumble and don’t even know how to speak. And, I was just coming off of the disastrous fraternity event where both the young men and women were disrespectful savages, so the fact that she spoke clearly, confidently and with finesse blew me away.

This girl, at 21, had accomplished more than I had done at 30. She was tutoring, volunteering, going to school, and had a set plan on what she wanted to do. Wow. She spoke a bit about her mother who was a drug addict. She had not been in the foster system too long and at one point, lived with her aunt. So, I think I got one of the least affected kids in the program. At orientation, we had heard horror stories of kids being moved around numerous times, violence, stories of molestation – very tough subjects. Besides the fact that this girl was in the foster system, she seemed pretty normal to me. Oh thank you lord for giving me a good one!!

We talked a bit about interests. She loved to cook. I asked her what food she liked and she said Thai was her favorite. Oh we will get on splendidly! She said because of her upbringing, she hadn’t tried many foods. She said she still hasn’t tried a tomato. A tomato??!! Now that confused me. What was the family feeding her, McDonald’s every day? I didn’t ask too many questions because I didn’t want to overwhelm her and figured that I would learn a lot about her over our time together. I made a mental note to expose her to some new foods.

She also said she loved hair and makeup. A girly girl! Perfect. I told her I loved that too and remarked on her perfect eyebrows. She also said she liked movies, books, etc. She said that she was very involved with her church and asked me if I went to church. Uh-oh. The Coordinator had told me that she knew that I wasn’t very religious and she had told them that she was more spiritual than religious. “I was brought up Episcopalian,” I started. She had no idea what that was. I told her it was like “Catholic Light.” I told her that it was pretty basic stuff and that my family wasn’t very religious. We mostly went to church on Easter, Christmas, stuff like that. She said “That’s cool.” I suppose this will be a topic we discuss in the future.

The Coordinator said she had to go into another meeting so we could continue talking on our own if we liked. I really liked this girl and I had already made my decision that I wanted to mentor her. Hopefully, she felt the same. We talked about what she was doing. She was nervous about college ending soon and embarking on a career path. I could see the worry in her face. I told her that I would help guide her. I said I may not have all the answers but I can definitely help her with getting the information she needed so she could make educated decisions. We talked a bit more about her family. She had two sisters, both pregnant and unmarried. I asked her if she had a boyfriend and she said that she did not. She was focusing on school. Wow. Definitely not me at 21.

Dream big!!!

The Coordinator came in with two forms and said “Usually, we wait to talk to you both separately on the phone to see if you like each other, but it’s pretty obvious to me that you do, so if you want, here’s the form and you can just fill it out.” We both looked at each other and smiled and took the forms. I guess I found my mentee and she found her mentor!!

As we were walking out, she looked down and said “I love your shoes.” I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

It’s off to a good start!

Ladies – START SOMEWHERE – you do not have to do a mentor program. It is a major time commitment. There are many options. You can volunteer for a DAY for a charity. You can help at an event. But you have to start. Only you can do that.