When Ameritas associate Ann Diers contemplated volunteering as a TeamMates mentor, she wondered if she could fit it into her busy life. Now working with her third mentee, she says not only does it fit, she probably gets more out of the experience than the student she mentors.
Recalling her first experience, Ann said, “Week after week, I met with my mentee in the school’s media center. Colleen’s grades were good and she seemed well liked, but she was so quiet. She didn’t seem to want to open up, although she answered direct questions when I asked about school and her family.
“As the weeks passed, it became apparent that Colleen liked science fiction and futuristic movies and stories. From little tidbits, I learned she also was interested in writing and drawing illustrations of her stories.
Finding a connection
“Our big moment came when Colleen shared some of her writing. The depth of her characters was amazing with intricate family histories and backstories, and she brought them all to life on paper. From then on, our time often involved me reading her work. Suddenly we had a lot to discuss.”
Ann often thinks of the time she and Colleen spent together “before she brought me into the rich world she created through her stories.”
“I’m not sure if this was our ’getting to know each other’ phase, or if she was just trying to figure out if she could trust me with her amazing characters and stories,” said Ann. “I’m honored that she felt comfortable sharing her creative work with me. It taught me that sometimes it might take a while for a TeamMates relationship to take root.
“I discovered there is no typical mentee,” Ann added. “My first one was quiet and another was a real talker.” During her association with TeamMates, Ann discovered students of all backgrounds and economic situations are on a waiting list for a mentor and need someone to listen to them.
A mentor’s influence can change a life
Ann remembers taking one of her mentees to a local college just to show her what the campus is like. She wanted to plant the idea that one day this student could go there and study whatever was of interest to her. Ann believes being a good mentor requires several steps:
- Expose your mentee to new ideas.
- Listen to his or her concerns.
- Give encouragement.
- Ultimately, see your student graduate from high school.
About TeamMates: Read how a well-run mentoring program works and access free resources, including videos and tips, at teammates.org.
Ask about mentoring opportunities at your local school, church, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Scouts.
Ann coordinates the volunteer program for TeamMates at Ameritas, which today boasts 51 volunteers. Recently Ameritas hosted a TeamMates volunteer recruiting event. Volunteers collected board games to deliver to the 16 public and parochial schools at which they volunteer as mentors.