Summer and Ms. Gwyneth
One-on-one mentoring has the power to bring about positive change through friendship and consistent support, but even more so through intentional skill-building activities. Amachi Pittsburgh is enthused about its latest mentoring approach: strength-based mentoring, which calls upon mentors to work with their mentee to identify, develop and cultivate their already-present strengths. Mentor Gwyneth has been using this technique unknowingly during the first year of her mentoring relationship with 11-year-old Summer, with outstanding results.
Gwyneth, 28, became involved with Amachi Pittsburgh through a local volunteer Web site, and after a few activities, she applied to become a mentor. Reflecting on her own childhood, Gwyneth realized the influence of her mother, who instilled a drive within her to make a positive impact on the world. She had the passion to give that value to someone else, and having a mentee was the perfect opportunity.
Aside from seeing Summer regularly, Gwyneth made a point to expose her mentee to different extracurricular and educational activities. Gwyneth has gotten Summer involved in three different classes — hip-hop dance, robotics and clay animation. The two of them have explored different foods and nutrition through trips to the local Whole Foods grocery store. Like Amachi, Gwyneth believes in the importance of giving children the chance to explore their many talents and realize their potential. This is the essence of strength-based mentoring.
Gwyneth has extended this strength-based approach past her conventional mentoring relationship and into Summer’s family. As she said, “Being a mentor to Summer was good in theory, but I realized without addressing the needs of her family, I could only make a small impact on her life.” With this recognition, Gwyneth invited Summer’s younger brother on some of their outings. In addition, she worked with their mother to provide support and expose her to various resources and opportunities.
Summer’s mother is thankful for Gwyneth — she even considers her a member of the family. She has seen Summer “come alive” since the two have been matched. She views Gwyneth as a godsend and hopes that every child has the opportunity to gain from a positive and proactive mentor.
Gwyneth is not only a wonderful example of an individual who uses strength-based mentoring, but also someone who can recognize the dual benefits of this relationship. Their friendship has allowed Summer to grow and gain new experiences, but Gwyneth has recognized changes in herself as well. “It has been humbling as times, while also reminding me of the simple joys in life,” she said. “It inspires me to think bigger about the impact I seek to have during this lifetime.”
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