The Value of a Mentor

By: Alison Bell

It was Friday in early September. I was sitting on a cool, grassy hill with several other Corps Members. It was time for each of us to personally dedicate our Red Jackets to a person, idea, or cause. We sat in silence for a moment before each of us took a turn to stand and explain our dedications. After a moment of silence, the memories of the past year flooded my mind, and I received clarity as to whom I would dedicate my Red Jacket.

In July of this year, I packed my bags, said goodbye to all of my friends and family, and moved from Georgia to Colorado to dedicate a year of my life to service. In the months leading up to this transition, I had overwhelming support from many friends and family members, and I am thankful for each one of them. Among these supporters, there was one who came into my life exactly a year before I moved to Denver. This woman easily became someone I looked up to and wanted to spend more time with, which is exactly what happened.  Over the next several months, although the two of us remained busy, we managed to spend time together on a fairly consistent basis. She became a mentor who showered me with words of encouragement and advice during each of our conversations. Every word I received held gravity in my heart and mind. She helped me raise my self-esteem and grow in my identity. Her words helped to influence me for the better and shape me into the person I am. The relationship I formed with her is what almost brought tears to my eyes when it was my turn to stand and explain my Red Jacket Dedication to my fellow Corps Members.

When I was accepted into City Year, I understood the value of mentoring students, but I did not understand its gravity until after I had been mentored myself. Among the many opportunities that exist for us as City Year Corps Members is the opportunity to be a mentor to the students we are serving. Over the past few months, I have already been able to give back what I received – to give compliments, to give praise, to be a shoulder to cry on. A few weeks ago, I received a letter from a student thanking me for helping her raise her self-esteem and see the beautiful things about herself.  In the midst of giving back, I am receiving a hundredfold more. It is now November, and with each morning that I put on that iconic City Year Red Jacket, I remember the one to whom I dedicated my jacket, and I feel empowered to inspire change as a mentor myself.

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