Amanda Hull first became a mentor in 2015. She mentors, Jenesha, a student at Schenectady High School who will be the first in her family to earn a college degree.
How did you learn about Sponsor-A-Scholar?
Schenectady Mentor Coordinator John DeBlasio is a former co-worker and good friend of mine. He had been talking to me for a while about mentoring. He kept telling me I’d be good at it because I’m good at talking with people, but I wasn’t sure. Finally, I agreed to do it. I was still worried that I wouldn’t be a good mentor, but after meeting my mentee, Jenesha, a few times, we clicked.
What made you want to become a mentor?
When I was growing up—I didn’t have anyone who mentored me. My parents both worked, and neither of them attended college. As a young person I didn’t have the guidance I needed in high school, and I wanted to be that person for someone else. I had to do things on my own and it was really hard for me.
I want to be the person for Jenesha who says: “I got your back. I support you in anything you want to do.”
What do you like best about mentoring?
I’m learning about how it is today for kids. (I don’t have children of my own.) This experience has helped me to learn from someone else’s viewpoint. I’ve also learned about Jenesha’s culture and experiences, which are so different from my own. Jenesha and her family came to the United States from Guyana and have overcome huge challenges in the process.
What is challenging about mentoring? What do you do about those challenges?
I’ll admit that the age difference can be challenging. I’m old enough to be her mom! But it’s all about building trust—and taking things slow. It takes a while to get the student to open up. It’s not going to happen instantaneously. In the beginning she was pretty quiet, but I persisted just asking open questions about her interests and family. Now we have a great relationship.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in college or high school?
I was the only one who wanted to pursue college in my family. I had to prove I could do it on my own. I have two siblings, and neither decided to go to college. It was such a big challenge to figure everything out and pay for it myself. (I’m still paying for it.) But it was worth it.
What is the most important piece of advice you would share with your mentee?
You have to believe in yourself first. Anything is possible.
What is the best time you remember spending with your mentee?
Early on in our relationship, we took a road trip to St. Lawrence University. (It’s a four-hour drive each way.) Being in the car together for that long forced us to talk a lot. And I know it also cemented the connection and dedication that we have to one another. From that day, Jenesha knew that I truly had her back and would do whatever I could to help her succeed.
What’s the one characteristic that you have that you think makes you a successful mentor?
I try not to look at Jenesha as a kid—she’s a just person who needs my help. I try to be there for her any way I can.
What makes you proud of your mentee?
I am blown away by her. It’s awesome to watch her focus on her goal of going to law school. Her drive and her ability to overcome obstacles is amazing. She has so many challenges, and she just keeps tackling each one. Seeing her go after her dreams is inspiring to me.
Has mentoring helped you? How?
When I first started mentoring, I had a lot of personal challenges in my life separate from mentoring. Mentoring helped me to see the best aspects of myself. It helped me to see some of the better parts of my own personality and see the value I could bring to someone else. It really helped to build my own confidence.
What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a mentor?
Absolutely do it. I learned more about myself than I thought I would. It was better than I thought it would be. I wish I would have done it sooner. It’s been a great experience so far.
Thank you Amanda!