Each day, mentors build natural relationships with youth through simple interactions. This August, we’ll share stories and resources for mentors and mentees illustrating some fun ways to engage this summer. Below are a few of our staff’s favorite stories from moments where an activity they planned created a lasting impact.
We all want our mentees to move forward with something to hold onto, be it a lesson, moral, goal, or something more tangible. Sometimes, that takeaway is as simple as a pleasant memory: a moment of light and laughter set aside from the rest of the world. These moments provide the stepping stones to larger outcomes, laying the foundation of trust essential for the relationship to thrive, as well as creating fond memories that stick with mentor and mentee, sometimes literally.
One activity Jennifer Bourgoin, Program Manager, has found effective to engage her mentee capitalizes on the eight-year-old’s newest interest. “Her favorite thing to do (by far) is to make slime: green slime, pink slime, rainbow slime, scented slime, slime with clear beads, slime with polka dots, slime that sparkles… the list could continue,” Jennifer smiles. “The slime allows us to express our creativity by using the same basic ingredients to make something uniquely different every session.” Each week, they meet over lunch to eat, chat, and play games, but the making of slime has become a trademark of their relationship. “My backpack contains enough slime for a production of Bartholomew and the Oobleck,” laughs Jennifer, in reference to the book by Dr. Seuss. “I’m looking forward to the fall when school returns and we try our next slime recipe: glow in the dark slime!”
Jodie Martin, Affiliate Network Specialist, also found an activity based on her mentee’s interest by planning a trip to the aquarium. “She is an animal lover and was really excited to see some up close,” Jodie remembers. “Usually she is very shy and doesn’t engage in conversation, but that day was different. The best part was watching the sea lion feeding and I mentioned that it was something she could do as a job when she got older.” The added mention that the aquarium hosts internships for high school students provided an eye-opening revelation for the 11-year-old. At the end of the day, Jodie bought each of them matching T-shirts to remember the day. “The next visit she was wearing the shirt and was super talkative,” says Jodie.
Julie Babyatzky, Director of Development and Donor Engagement, decided to try a different route with her mentee by suggesting an activity neither of them had tried before: sewing. “I was excited about the class because it was something brand new we could learn together,” says Julie. “Throughout the class we were able to help each other when things got challenging or we struggled with a technique. I could tell that my mentee was delighted to help me out with my hand-sewing — something she was way better at than me!” At the end of the session, they were both able to take home a pillow as reminder of the fun time they shared together.
Even an activity as simple as going to the movies can prove rewarding as Julie also discovered when her mentee leaned over to her during the previews and asked if they could go see an upcoming movie together in December. “It was the first time she’d suggested doing an activity beyond our next meeting,” Julie recounts happily. The biggest takeaways are in the moments – sometimes they’re shared activities learning and creating, but sometimes they’re small exchanges of just a few words that linger with both mentor and mentee, forming a strong relationship for years to come.
1 in 3 American youth are growing up without the support of a caring adult outside their family. Become a mentor today!