The Importance of Being a Mentor

“Be the change you want to see in the world” a quote by Mahatma Gandhi stands as a focal point on one of the walls at the iMentor.org office in new york city, a non-profit organization that matches students from underprivileged communities with successful adults to guide and support them through the difficulties and challenges of high school life, both on a personal level as well as academically.

Two years ago I applied to iMentor and was matched with Jordan, a freshmen at the High School for Careers in Sports in the Bronx. I decided to join the program for four years in order to help him throughout his high school career. It wasn’t a choice I made to be altruistic, I simply heard about the program through a friend and thought it would be a great opportunity and learning experience. I have to admit at first I was hesitant, considering my demanding career as a creative consultant at Roundarch and my own personal life, it seemed impossible to help someone else when I was struggling to help myself and my own family.

Growing up in an “underprivileged” community in NYC in the early 90’s where drugs and crime was the everyday normalcy and going to school felt like walking into prison, it was expected to assume that the “good life” was simply for the privileged and those with more fortunate socioeconomic conditions. My mom was always there for me and supported me in every way, but being a single parent struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, there was only so much she could offer. I had very few people I looked up to growing up, but fortunately there was one, my old music teacher Mr. Larios. He kept us out of trouble by teaching us the art of Latin Jazz everyday after school and performing on the weekends for the community, but most importantly he was a great mentor. He gave me one of the best recommendations for college, gave me my first summer job helping design the district’s annual calendar and was never shy to scream at me when I did something wrong, all with good intentions of course :-). He helped me realize that life is simply a byproduct of the choices we make (the good and the bad) and that we must learn from those experiences in order to grow as individuals and within our communities.

An old boss told me “the secret to happiness is making others happy” and I truly believe that there is nothing more rewarding than inspiring others to find their own voice, even if it simply means showing up once a month or writing one e-mail a week. No matter how small the effort, a single pebble dropped in water can ripple a thousand-fold, spreading as it flows out to sea.

We’re in desperate times, we’re all feeling the effects of the economy and the environment and we must make every effort possible to set the foundation for future generations too look after our planet, all life and its beauty and continue the legacy of the human condition. Being a mentor has helped me realize that life isn’t just about material wealth, but helping a fellow human being less fortunate than myself realize they are beacons of light in a world clouded by darkness.

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