January is National Mentoring Month, and we are highlighting a number of perspectives on mentoring, events, and ways you can get involved in the field. Our first blog post is co-written by Lucas and his mentee Jovanni from the Boys and Girls Club of Boston.
I am a mentor through the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. When I first met my mentee Jovanni, who was 13-years-old at the time, I thought the purpose of our relationship was to play basketball, have fun and do things that made him happy. Things that make him happy tend to be anything athletic, and initially, anything related to school was not on this list.
[caption id="attachment_556" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Jovanni and Lucas at Mentoring Night at Fenway 2011"][/caption]However, this was not what I felt a mentor/mentee relationship should be limited to. I wanted to help Jovanni become a better student, think clearly, and achieve success off of the basketball court. The map on getting him from the basketball court to the classroom was not clear to me.
I soon came to realize that Jovanni, while athletically gifted, is also a deep analytical thinker who refuses to quit trying until he achieves his goals. Once, I came to see Jovanni on a rainy afternoon, only to find him completely engaged in a brainteaser called “Railroad Rush Hour.” When I entered the club, Jovanni barely acknowledged my presence. He was completely determined to finish this brainteaser. Jovanni sat there for over an hour working through every possibility, every angle until he finally finished it. I was amazed at Jovanni’s determination and perseverance on what seemed to me a completely tedious task!
This was the first time that I realized how dedicated Jovanni could be to something off the court. It was also the first time I knew that Jovanni possessed special traits that enabled him to succeed at whatever he put his heart and determination into.
Jovanni has changed my life far more than he can ever know. I got into the field of education because I wanted to work with the Jovannis of the world, people who love life, work hard, will never quit and refuse to be silenced. Jovanni has been a breath of fresh air in my life. He has made me laugh, made me think about my life and how I treat people, and constantly reaffirms why I am a teacher. I look forward to coming to the club every week and talking with Jovanni. His energy is contagious and I try to apply that to every aspect of my life.
Jovanni has given me strength. When things are not going right in my life I think about the club and Jovanni, my purpose in life and why I am who I am. It is through my interactions with Jovanni that I carry on with a smile and refuse to quit.
When I first met my mentor Lucas, I thought he was going to be a boring mentor who pushed me into boring school work. On the contrary, he let me play basketball and that was one of the many things that stood out about him. Certainly his basketball skills did not stand out!
After a long period of playing basketball I asked him if he wanted to do anything else. Luke said he was good at ping-pong and proceeded to smash me in our first game.
One day I got a bad test grade in math and talked to Luke about it. I told Luke my teacher hated me. Luke told me that my teacher probably didn’t hate me, and that I should walk in the next day and smile at him, say hello and then proceed to try my best in one class. This showed me how Luke could relate to how a teacher thinks about a student.
Another thing that Luke and I talked about was our school basketball teams. My school basketball team was not as good we could have been. Luke also coached a basketball team that did not live up to its potential. We would spend plenty of time talking about how our teams could be better.
From the time I met Luke to now, he showed me that first impressions are not always 100% right. Through playing basketball, ping-pong, puzzles, games and talking, Luke definitely proved how a mentor can be fun.
The way Luke has changed my life is obvious from my grades. Before I met Luke, I was almost failing English. Luke, being an English teacher, helped get me up to a B+ average. The fact that Luke comes all the way here to see me is more than great. It helped my self-esteem, and made me realize not only that people from the Boys and Girls Club and my family love me, but Luke loves me too.