Why I mentor: Teresa Herd, VP, Creative Director at Staples

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. Today’s blog is a Q&A with Staples’ VP, Creative Director Teresa Herd, a mentor to a number of youth. Staples is supporting a statewide mentoring public awareness campaign for the third consecutive year.

  • Why is mentoring important to you?
  • It is important to me to feel like I am doing something in this world that is for someone else. I have been extremely fortunate in my life. I have been supported and loved. So in return, I wanted to share my time, my experience and myself with others who may not have been as lucky as I have been.

  • What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had mentoring?
  • I taught a kid to count change and tell time with an analog clock. He is 15. We had been working on it for two years. I did not enter this hoping for anything for myself. These kids have been through more in their short lives than we will be through in a lifetime. There cannot be an expectation that they will “give back” in a way we are accustomed. My hope is that my mentee will be able to survive on his own once he leaves the system, so I focus on giving him skills he can use...and also try to laugh a lot!

  • What piece of advice do you find most helpful for the people you mentor?
  • It really depends on the kid and understanding what they need. I mentored a college student and we talked a lot about how to get a job, reviewed interview questions, where to look, what to wear etc. I also mentor a 15-year-old who has been in the system most of his life. We talk about life skills. The importance of education. The importance of being nice to people. How to get what he wants in life in a way that is productive. The range is huge. There is no magic bullet.

  • What advice would you give to other adults looking to become mentors?
  • I tell them it is a wonderful thing to do. That it is a huge commitment. The focus needs to be on the child. They likely will not thank you. They may not even speak to you for the first few visits. They will feel you out and make sure you are a safe person for them to interact with and even then, you may not get the rewards that you expect. So if you go in with no expectations you will be pleasantly surprised by the little things.

  • Who has been a mentor in your life? What are some of the lessons they taught you?
  • I have had many. I had a great high school art teacher. She really helped me understand art and guided me into my career. In college I became friends with an interpreter for the deaf. She was 10 years older than me. She initially hired me to baby-sit her 2-year-old, but we became good friends and she helped me navigate through some tough times in school. I have had a few very good bosses who I learned a lot from and a coworker who agreed to mentor me when I was trying to advance my career here at Staples. So many great lessons learned from all. I try to give back whenever I can.

  • What inspired you to become a mentor?
  • I have done a lot of work for organizations and on boards. I wanted to do something where I could interact directly with the people supported by the organization. And I really like kids! I still do the other stuff but enjoy the mentoring the most.

  • What mentoring programs have you been involved in?
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Home for Little Wanderers, AFC Mentoring and The Point Foundation.