Americorps VISTA Spotlight: Eleanor Donahue

Training and Product Design VISTA at MENTOR
March 16th, 2020
Posted In: Campaigns, Mentoring Stories

After four years in a Catholic, all-girls high school, I think I would have been hard-pressed not to have a female mentor (or multiple!) in my life. Every minute of my education, I was surrounded by strong, opinionated girls who have grown up to become empathetic, vibrant leaders who are now leading the charge for social change. Our shared history has produced a strong bond; I would be more than willing to help anyone from my school who reached out, and I think they would be willing to do the same for me. In fact, I ran into a large group of current students and their parents this week and started chatting with them like we were old friends, despite graduating 10 years ago.

The majority of my teachers were also women. Sisters Mary Janice and Pat were two of the cooler nuns you will ever meet. Both women have backgrounds in chemistry—Sister Pat even had a previous career as a pharmacist—that served them well as teachers of bioethics. We thrived when they challenged us to think beyond our initial perceptions, and to think beyond the church’s opinion, until we developed our own, well-informed opinions. And we challenged them right back! Who would have thought that nuns would turn us into a rather formidable class of free thinkers?

Catholic schools place great pride in the service work their students perform, and much of my volunteer time turned out to be the background training to my budding career in nonprofits. The women who worked in our advancement department exposed me to the world of fundraising, donor relations, and institutional development. They taught me the power of working for a mission-driven organization and helped me discover some of my professional strengths.

Working at MENTOR has taught me that one in three youths do not have a mentor outside of the home. I’m so lucky to have grown up surrounded by peer mentors, academic mentors, and professional mentors to guide me through my adolescence and point me in the direction of a life of service and social justice. Deciding to volunteer as an Americorps VISTA for an entire year is not an easy decision to make, but it also felt like a natural choice for me. I was surrounded by strong women growing up who were eager to serve however they could, and I continue that legacy daily with my work as a VISTA.

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