Mass Mentoring Partnership and the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring hosted the 10th annual Youth Mentoring Day at the State House on January 21. This year's theme was The Mentoring Movement: The Road to Relationships. During the program, the Ambassadors of Mentoring highlighted four examples of how mentoring and empowering youth-adult relationships affect so many lives. Here is one of those stories:
State Representative Aaron Vega is someone who understands the importance of relationships. As a kid growing up in Holyoke, his father instilled the importance of community in him from an early age, stressing respect for other people and cultures and the need to advocate for your neighbors. As a film student, he found a mentor in notable film editor Paul Barnes of Florentine Films, who helped him craft his skill as a filmmaker by teaching Representative Vega how to use his own personal experience to tell stories.
Now, as member of the Massachusetts legislature, surrounded by numerous political mentors, Rep. Vega still finds storytelling to be an important tool not only to advocate for the city of Holyoke but to create relationships that lead to change. Rep. Vega is on the road to relationship as he says, “That’s our job as legislators - to connect people and open doors. I don’t personally have all of the answers, but I know someone who does. That’s really our job - to understand the issues, and understand solutions, and put them together.”
Representative Vega describes Holyoke through its challenges, strengths, and people. The city is currently in the process of rebuilding their school system to better meet the needs of the students and families. Vega has taken what some may view as a less than ideal situation for the schools and capitalized on it as a way to network with others.
He has also used the personal stories of those around him to build empowering youth-adult relationships. He sees it as a time to bring organizations like Mass Mentoring Partnership, individual artists, dancers, computer programmers, and other adults together to enrich the way children interact with adults, form relationships on a number of levels, and change the course of those student’s stories. Representative Vega sees the youth in Holyoke for all of their unlocked potential. He sees the adults as role models to help the young people discover their talent and value to the city. Most importantly, he sees the stories of the young people waiting to be written, and finds adults willing to help write them.