Jóvenes Adelante Mentor and Student Figure Out Life’s Hurdles as a Team
By Kate Greenaway
For April McGee, becoming a Jóvenes Adelante (JA) mentor was not a snap decision. In fact, it took a couple of years to make the leap. As much as McGee felt connected to the program’s mandate and loved the students she’d met, she wanted to be sure that her Spanish was strong enough to make the relationship comfortable and productive. Eighteen months ago, with intermediate level Spanish under her belt, she volunteered to be matched with first-year communications student Cynthia Rodríguez Álvarez.
For Rodríguez Álvarez, similarly, becoming a mentee was a bit of a process. While McGee describes her as “a very independent young woman,” this JA student remembers being shy and uncertain about what to expect of the relationship. But she also remembers warming quickly to McGee’s genuine interest in her success and her steadfast “I’m here for you, whatever you need” approach.
Now, with Rodríguez Álvarez well into her second year of university, their relationship is relaxed and good-humored, and it’s clear that they both enjoy the other’s company.
While she says her mom is proud of her and supports her career aspirations, Rodríguez Álvarez becomes thoughtful as she describes how McGee’s support complements the support she receives from her family: Her mother hasn’t personally experienced the ups and downs and stresses of university life. For her, it’s difficult to appreciate the various complexities her daughter encounters or to provide the practical suggestions that McGee has at her fingertips.
“When I’m stressed about school, which happens quite often, my family usually tells me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Sometimes, that’s not what I need,” she says. “I need advice and encouragement from someone who’s actually been there, who really understands what I’m going through. I can really be honest with April, and she knows how to be there for me.”
McGee reaches out frequently, saying that it’s just as important to share what she is doing as it is to ask her mentee what’s going on with her. And she highlights how much she enjoys exposing Rodríguez Álvarez to new experiences and ideas—a day trip together to Guanajuato, coursework-related events and travel, getting a passport—actions that she sees as a big part of her role.
As JA prepares for the 2019 intake of 25 new students, finding mentors for each of them is a high priority. Equally important is creating mentor-mentee matches that really stick. McGee and Rodríguez Álvarez reached a quick consensus on their advice to new mentors and students:
“Be open. Be available. Listen to each other. Trust that you will figure it out together, and that it will be worth it.”
For information, to join our mailing list, or to become a sponsor or volunteer, visit our website www.jovenes.adelante.org, call 415 150 0030, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact JA’s newest board member, Nora Weaver, at email@example.com