Why having a mentor is so important
Even before the presidential inauguration, WriteGirl, a Los Angeles-based writing and mentoring organization, proudly told us about their mentee Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate. As a teen, Amanda Gorman participated in WriteGirl, and she praised the community of women writers who gave her tremendous support. While I have only occasionally participated in WriteGirl’s workshops, for the past three years I have been a mentee in Girls Write Now, a writing and mentoring organization based in New York City.
I learned about Girls Write Now when I was a freshman in high school, but I initially did not think that I needed a mentor. During my freshman year, I began to struggle in my STEM-focused high school due to my nonverbal learning disability. After being bullied by my peers, I applied to Girls Write Now. The following September, after being selected as a mentee, I met my mentor, Erica Drennan. Erica is completing her PhD at Columbia University in the Department of Slavic Languages. Erica is exactly the person I want to become. She is brilliant, tenacious and kind, and she has shown me how to be brave. The Girls Write Now community is nurturing and collaborative, as opposed to destructive and competitive. By owning my feelings through my writing, I gained my voice and power.
Mentors motivate and encourage you through positive feedback.
As a teenage girl in a male-dominated STEM high school, there have been many times when I’ve lost my confidence in math and science. My mentor has praised my abilities inside and outside of writing, and generally, mentors give you positive reinforcement. While they will push you to be your best, they are also a soft place to land.
Mentors help you through the challenges you face.
A good mentor will help you with the difficulties you face, whether it be in geometry or outside of the classroom in sticky social situations. Because mentors are not your parents or grandparents, they can help provide a different (and more objective) perspective on issues that may come up.
Mentors help connect you to future opportunities.
The best mentors make an effort to connect you with opportunities and people they have met. Erica has pushed me to apply for opportunities that I may have been intimidated by when I was younger. If your English teacher tells you about a selective summer writing program or your tennis coach lets you know about an opportunity to train more competitively, they are showing their confidence that you can progress to the next level. They told you about the opportunity for a reason, so take the time to hear why they picked it for you! By applying or trying out for the opportunity, you may be able to meet more mentors and form important connections.
Mentors increase your confidence.
Mentors will believe in your ability to achieve your goals. They will help you understand the steps needed to move closer to your dreams. On a basic note, if you are having a bad day, your mentor will help give you perspective by reassuring you that better days are ahead.
Mentors will become your friends.
Throughout the past three years, my mentor and I have discussed a lot of different topics ranging from poetry writing to high school advice. When you have a mentor, you have an older, wiser person that you can seek advice from without feeling afraid. You will not only gain great advice, but you will gain another friend. Ultimately, this friendship will evolve into a two-way street where you can be supportive of your mentor, too.
Amanda Gorman’s journey inspires me to write and be a changemaker. Girls Write Now and WriteGirl help girls not only develop important writing skills, but they also promote self-confidence and resilience. The support from Girls Write Now and the countless hours my mentor has worked with me to help me become the best version of myself have been game-changers.