20 for 20: Linda Pelosi Dunn

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Say hi to Linda (and Ron). They are mentors of two Albany graduates and longtime supporters of Sponsor-A-Scholar.

How did you learn about Sponsor-A-Scholar?

Amanda (left) at her college graduation

Amanda (left) at her college graduation

My husband Ron Dunn is a lawyer and he heard about it through Sponsor-A-Scholar’s founder, Charlie Buchanan, and Charlie’s wife, Charlotte. Charlotte and Ron knew each other through law school. I work at Hudson Valley Community College as an academic advisor, so it’s something that really interested me. Both Ron and I mentored students from Albany High School from 2006 onward. We’re both still in touch with our students today.

The student I mentored, Amanda, was living on her own when I met her (she was 16 or so). She didn’t have anyone in her life who could support her to pursue college. When we met, we really hit it off, and I gave her guidance socially, and about college. We looked at colleges together, and she decided to go to SUNY Delhi, though she ended up transferring to Hudson Valley after her first year. She earned an associate’s degree in Computer Aided Design, though she hasn’t been able to find a position in her field. She’s still searching for what she wants to do, and I’m still there for her.

We’re in touch by text, we send each other birthday cards and holiday cards, and I served as a reference for her when she was applying for a job. I know she depends on me, and I’m happy to be there for her and be a part of her life.

Ron and Kewsi

Ron and Kewsi

Ron mentored Kewsi, who went on to teach in the Albany Schools, which is just so great! They are also still in touch.

What do you like about mentoring?

I think that one of the best things about mentoring is that you learn how different people live. You have to step outside of yourself. It gives you perspective and makes you think about other points of view.

Did you have a mentor in high school or college?

While I didn’t have anyone in school, my first boss was a mentor. She saw how young and green I was, and she really took me under her wing. Through her, I learned about time management, she helped me set up a bank account, and really get started professionally. She was very encouraging and supportive, and she helpedto get me outside of my comfort zone.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in college or high school?

Amanda

Amanda

While I didn’t face any big challenges in school, I did have to figure out how to balance raising a family and still work as a parent of young children. It was hard then, and it’s still hard now.

Why do you choose to support Sponsor-A-Scholar?

We’re very fortunate, we’ve been successful. We support organizations that mean something to us, and we love Sponsor-A-Scholar. On a basic level, education is my life’s work. I went to school for social work, but realized quickly that I didn’t really want to be a therapist. I came across a program that trained people to work in a college setting assisting students, and it made a lot of sense for me. I like being in a college setting. I’ve been working in this field for more than thirty-five years.

Ron is very involved in the community too. He started the Albany booster program at the High School, he loves kids and sports. We were very fortunate, and we feel strongly that we wanted to help others with less.

We especially love Sponsor-A-Scholar’s mission, and its emphasis on fostering independence in its students. We also love that so many of the graduates give back to the community. That’s really important.

How does supporting Sponsor-A-Scholar make you feel?

I was proud to be a mentor and I’m glad to support the organization financially. It makes me feel good to know that I am helping someone succeed.

What is one piece of advice you would share with our Scholars?

Put yourself out there. It’s ok to go into college not knowing what you want to do. This is your chance to try something! Take a class about the History of India if you’ve always been interested in it. Now is your chance.

Also, don’t be afraid to get help. There are services and people who want to help. They are out there, but they’re not going to come to you; you need to seek them out. Everybody needs help sometimes. There’s no shame in asking for it.

What would you say to someone who is considering making their first gift to Sponsor-A-Scholar?

They can count on results. Your gift will change young people’s lives. This work is so important. As mentors and then as donors, we saw the impact firsthand. Thanks to this program, the students have so much support and love--which is so important for their success.

We’re so proud of the students that we mentored, and how the program has grown over the years. We think it’s great that there’s a new emphasis on helping students to explore careers and learn more about what’s possible. It’s all about fostering their independence, and helping them grow. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Thank you to Linda (and Ron) for all you do!