January 12, 2017

Mentoring is a critical component in young people’s lives, helping them make the decisions that ultimately lead to improved opportunities and connections, which has an impact in real life.

As part of part of National Mentoring Month, today is “I am a Mentor Day.” This is a chance for the dedicated people who are making those real life impacts to step into the spotlight and talk about why they choose to be a mentor, and how doing so has impacted their own lives.

Here are three Summer Search mentors who were kind enough to share their stories. #MentorIRL

Cassandra Trujillo, Boston

Cassandra and MiralysCassandra (right), with one of her mentees, Miralys

“I am a mentor because my students—amazing, creative, passionate, curious people—have so much value to offer, but the world we live in frequently discounts what young people, and especially young people of color, have to contribute. I want them to know that their voices, ideas, and experiences matter, because those are the forces I hope will shape our future.”

Jonathen Williams, Seattle


“Getting to know our students is a lot of fun. Themes and topics vary, but not every conversation is heavily saturated with tears of sadness and frustration. After establishing a foundation of mutual trust, the real fun begins when students invite you into their world.

“Once, a student called me before her visit to the hairdresser and described the new hairstyle that she wanted. She even explained the difference between highlights and ombré hair coloring (a question that I secretly wanted answered for quite some time). I learned a lot that day!

“I can’t help but smile when my students invite me to attend their activities and sporting events. I relish the chance to watch them play, hear them sing, view their performances, and cheer them on. It matters to me.

“When I was in school, my parents worked long, odd hours. I understand what it feels like to look up into the crowd and not see them there. Although it may seem small, I put forth my best effort to physically be there for my students. I am forever grateful that I have the precious opportunity to make a positive difference in these young people’s lives. My name is Jonathen Williams and I am a mentor.”

Jill Kantrowitz, New York City


“I began at Summer Search as a mentor in 2006 and to this day I am grateful for the privilege of joining so many students in some of their most triumphant and challenging times.

“During my second year, one of my students, who I’ll refer to as “Tee,” called every week like clockwork and was regularly defensive and angry. She was intense in her evaluation of her own actions, and actions of others, as well as her own behaviors both at home and at school. She had huge dreams to travel, learn, and to do more academically than her parents had done. Each week during our talks I pushed her to take more ownership and dig below the things that made her angry, to the things that made her sad, hopeful, scared, and happy.

“At some point after her first summer trip, we had a really hard phone conversation about her present and her future, and I told her that I often needed a strong cup of coffee after our calls because they were so intense, but also so meaningful. It was a significant moment rooted in honesty and trust, and we both ended the call laughing.

“Our relationship became stronger and the intensity and hard work that Tee did in the program continued. Over the next year we talked through a significant family illness and loss, her college application process, and the transition from high school to college. The day before she left for college she unexpectedly showed up at the office with a gigantic hot cup of coffee and a giant hug… for me!

“I get excited whenever I hear from her or get updates because of all that I learned from her, and I am most appreciative of the trust and growth we experienced, together.”

National Mentoring Month

Summer Search mentors work incredibly hard to form honest and trusting relationships with their students, to remind them that their voices matter, and to just be there for them in their personal and academic lives.

Thank you to Cassandra, Jonathen, and Jill for sharing, and thank you to the rest of our Summer Search mentors, past and present, for all that you do!

Check out some of our other #NationalMentoringMonth stories:

Mentor Trainings Snapshot »

Emily and Lunide: Building Together »

I am a Mentor 2016 »

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