Tell us about yourself: where do you live, where do you work, and what do you do in your free time?
I live and work in Schenectady, where I recently became Executive Director for Discover Schenectady, the tourism promotion agency for Schenectady County. I’m very lucky that my work and free time overlap quite a bit – I love exploring and enjoying Schenectady (and the greater Capital Region!) and volunteering in the community. I also love yoga and playing with my dog, Izzie.
How did you learn about Sponsor-A-Scholar?
Marcy Stengel, Director of Development and Communications, came to speak to the Junior League of Albany. She spoke so passionately about what mentors could do for their students, I knew I had to do it. It's especially meaningful that I have the opportunity to mentor a student from Schenectady High School – because it's where I spent four wonderful years as a student.
How long have you been a mentor?
I am just beginning my second year with my outstanding mentee, Luisa.
What do you like about mentoring?
There are so many things I love about mentoring. Seeing Luisa, who is already wise beyond her years, grow and mature, having meaningful conversations about the direction of her life…I could go on! I love getting texts with her amazing test scores and other updates; it makes me so proud! And, most of all, mentoring is fun!
What surprises you about mentoring?
I’m always surprised at how much I gain in return – sometimes I have to stop and ask: “am I giving her as much as I am getting?” It feels great to connect with a young person who does and wants so much. Mentoring gives me such renewed hope for what this upcoming generation will do for our community and beyond.
Have you had any magical mentoring moments that you'd like to share?
The first time I met Luisa, she told me “I wanted someone who loves animals” and asked “Do you?” I knew right then that we would get along – and it was the first time we had a meet up that it was fully cemented. We had dinner and went to a movie and I let her pick – A Dog’s Purpose. I cried. She cried. I think that really solidified a common interest and comfort level between us that opened doors for our relationship to grow.
Did you have a mentor in high school/college or as you started your career? Who was that person and what did they do for you?
I’ve certainly had so many people who I looked up to, who coached and helped me as I was growing up. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I had my first “official” mentor. He was someone who had known me as an undergraduate student, and worked in the office where I had my first professional job. We met regularly and he was someone I could be completely honest with. He always asked the tough (but necessary) questions. My mentor was someone who I could problem solve with, and, I think, most importantly, someone who helped me celebrate my successes. That relationship taught me a lot about what it means to have a mentor and absolutely planted the seed in me that I wanted to do for others what he did for me.
How does supporting Sponsor-A-Scholar make you feel?
I feel so connected and appreciated not only by my mentee, but by the staff and other volunteers. There is never a question that the students are the heart and soul of the organization, and that focus is shared by everyone involved. And, my time spent with Luisa is always such a refreshing change of pace – even when we talk about “tough stuff.” Her outlook and attitude, as well as her sense of humor, help me to put my own life in perspective. I could go on and on – I love this organization!
What is one piece of advice you would share with our Scholars?
Take care of yourself! The time of life that the Scholars are in is so amazing and full – studies, sports, activities, jobs, families, college, so much transition and change—the earlier they can learn to take time to relax, breathe, enjoy, the better. That is a skill that most will never fully master, but can make a huge difference in their enjoyment and satisfaction in life!
What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a mentor?
Do it! The biggest fear that I’ve heard from friends who are considering it is that they’re too busy – and that is a concern many people share when I ask them to join me as a mentor. But the great thing about mentoring with Sponsor-A-Scholar is that you have shared control, with your mentee, about when you meet and what you do. You can make it work within your schedule. I can honestly say I get as much, if not more, back in joy and fulfillment, as I put in. Sponsor-A-Scholar gives you the opportunity to make a huge and direct impact on someone’s life, and that really is a gift.
Thank you so much, Becky!