Tell us about yourself: how did you first learn about Sponsor-A-Scholar? What other causes do you support?
I first heard about the organization about seven or eight years ago. My friend Judy White was a mentor at the time. She would often tell me about mentoring her student, Starquanna, and the different activities that they did. Judy really enjoyed being a mentor, and her description of the experience piqued my interest. I sponsor and mentor two students. I joined the board in 2016, and I now chair the fund development committee and the graduation committee.
In addition to volunteering and supporting Sponsor-A-Scholar, I’m a longtime trustee at the Albany Institute for History and Art. I also support the Addiction Care Center, Mohawk Hudson Humane Society and other local organizations. I have three adult children, and four grandchildren, two of whom live locally. I also volunteer at my grandsons’ nursery school, and read to the children there.
What did you think when you first learned about Sponsor-A-Scholar?
It sounded like a great organization. The idea of mentoring really resonated with me as a great way to give your time and expertise to help a young person.
Did you have a mentor growing up?
While I didn’t have a formal mentor, I always had people in my life who helped me along the way. My family was very close and supportive, and there was a clear expectation that I would go to college. I took part in 4H from 4th grade through high school, which helped me to build skills and confidence. I was also lucky to have strong peer support. I also had the same guidance counselor from seventh grade through my senior year of high school. His name was Mr. G. He did everything that he could for me.
You mentor two Scholars, what’s that like?
The students are sisters. Both started out at Troy High School. Angela is well on her way. She graduated from Troy High in 2016, and is finishing her second year of college. She is thriving in every direction, and has so much self-confidence now. It has been a pleasure to watch her bloom into a wonderful, self-assured young woman, and take on new challenges. Jolie is just finishing her senior year at Troy High. She’s eagerly awaiting her college acceptance letters. She is still working to overcome her shyness. Both my mentees are hard workers, and it’s great to see them understand the magnitude of their accomplishments and the opportunities that are available to them.
What advice would you offer to new mentors?
The beginning can be very hard. In my case, both students were very shy, and it took a lot of persistence on my part to build a trusting relationship. You may need to give more time and attention at the beginning, and not become discouraged. After all, you’re the adult in the relationship. Just keep showing up!
Was there a particularly rewarding moment for you as a mentor?
There have been several! Many times, after introducing Angela to a new activity, she’ll tell me that it helped her feel more comfortable or confident. She and I visited the Albany Institute when she was in high school, and then when she went to the Institute on a school trip, she felt comfortable because she had been there before with me.
You wear many hats for Sponsor-A-Scholar (mentor, sponsor, board member and committee chair). One of your roles is as the chair the committee that plans our annual Graduation event. (Thank you!) What is your wish for the Scholars in the class of 2018?
I hope that each of them does the best they can, and they enjoy the process of pursuing their dreams. I hope they continue to feel successful, and they never give up. I want them to know that the whole world is in front of them—so they should just keep going and work hard!
Also, I encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved in the program as a donor, a sponsor or a mentor to come to the event on June 6th. It’s such an inspiring evening! We hear from all of the college-bound Scholars, like Jolie, and we also have one of our successful alumni come and speak.
What excites you about Sponsor-A-Scholar’s plans for the future?
There are so many possibilities for growth. I’m excited that we can continue to increase the number of students we can help.
How does supporting Sponsor-A-Scholar make you feel?
It’s a great feeling. I like that we are offering opportunities to young people who will be our future leaders. If we’re helping this generation, it will come back four-fold to the future generations. People will be better to one another because they’ve been supported. There will be more successful people in our community to keep things going.
What would you say to someone who is considering making their first gift to Sponsor-A-Scholar?
You’re doing a very good thing--helping a young Scholar to build confidence and pursue their dreams. Very few people make it on their own no matter what their circumstances. We’ve all had help along the way, no matter who we are or what we do. Sponsor-A-Scholar helps kids to have the support they need to succeed.