The week of March 11-17 is AmeriCorps week! This is a week to celebrate the organizations, programs and members of the AmeriCorps community who dedicate their time and energy to service nationwide. In honor of this week, MENTOR is featuring blogs from AmeriCorps members who are spending their service year working with mentoring related organizations.
My name is Rachel Benjamin and this year, I will be spending 11 months serving at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay through AmeriCorps. I graduated from the University of Vermont this past May with a degree in Community and International Development, and I chose to do AmeriCorps because I wanted to be involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and in the youth development field after graduation. Service was an integral part of my undergraduate education, and I knew I wanted to carry that with me in the work I did after college.
Through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, I am a Program Ambassador for the Mentor 2.0 program. Mentor 2.0 is a technology-enhanced mentoring program that provides one-to-one support for low income and first-generation high school students in the Boston Public School system. I am currently working in the 9th-grade class at Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers (EMK). Through Mentor 2.0, the entire 9th grade at EMK is matched with an adult mentor, who helps them with everything from academic success to college readiness to just getting through the hurdles that come with being a high school student.
The Mentor 2.0 program is structured so that my supervisor and I teach a class once a week with all the 9th graders that teaches them soft skills, such as setting reachable goals, developing grit and resiliency, and forming healthy relationships. During this class time, the students also communicate with their mentors with guided questions through an online platform. Finally, mentor pairs meet in person once a month after school for activities and time to connect. Through my AmeriCorps position, I split my time working at EMK and at our Big Brothers Big Sisters office.
Although I have always been interested in youth development, before this year, I had not thought deeply about working in the mentoring field. Despite working with youth in the past—at a children’s science museum and through tutoring programs overseas—I had not spent an extensive period of time working with high school students. Now that I am spending my year of service in the mentoring field, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Every day is different than the last, just as every mentoring relationship is different. Being part of the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring program has been a great way to learn what it is like to work directly in the mentoring field. Receiving support from my fellow Corps members, who are placed at a variety of mentoring organizations across the state, has also been incredibly beneficial.
Overall, this year of service has been a challenging and exceptionally rewarding experience. I find myself being pushed in new ways all the time, whether in the classroom, with my co-workers in the office or during the mentor and mentee pair events. Furthermore, whenever I’m feeling down, I think of many of my students who, only five months in, have already formed positive, transformative relationships with their mentors. In direct service, there are days when you question whether you are making a real impact in the lives of the people you work with. But then I have a student tell me her mentor has become “one of the most important people in my life,” and I know it is all worth it. Mentoring is so worth it.