Our final blog post in the series, “Who Mentored YOU,” is from Partners in Routt County’s Strawberry Park AmeriCorps School-Based Mentor, Brooke Newton. Brooke is from Austin, Texas and graduated in 2011 from St. Edwards University. This past year she worked for AmeriCorps as an after school science instructor for at-risk elementary schools. Here is what Brooke had to say about mentoring:
I never realized what a mentor was until I was in college and heard the word thrown around when students talked about their advisers and professors as professional mentors. I thought it sounded so helpful and fun, having someone guide you through the scary process of college and life after in the “real world.” I never connected with adults on a professional basis but when I started thinking about and wishing that I had a mentor; I realized I did have one. When I think of a mentor I think of an adult figure that is supportive, caring and never lets you down. Someone who always shows up when they say they will and lends a listening ear when needed. The person that comes to mind when I think of an adult who has shown these constant qualities in my life is my grandfather, Travis.
Travis will turn 90 this year and he still works full time at the real estate agency he founded on his own. He loves to tell me stories about his childhood growing up and working on a Texas farm, living in a one room house with his six brothers and sisters. From my grandfather I learned a lot about how the world works. I spent my summers on his farm where he raised an assortment of interesting animals such as emu, llama, peacocks and several varieties of deer, just to name a few. He taught me to care for living creatures; that a wild deer will eat out of my hand if I am gentle and quiet enough, and of course he taught me everything I could ever need to know about hunting, fishing and animals.
Travis worked his way through college quickly to join the army during WWII and eventually received a PhD, which is why it is no surprise that he has always been the biggest supporter of my education. When I get the chance to visit him his first questions are always about education; “How is school?”, “What are you learning?”, and more recently, “When are you going to graduate school?” He is supportive of any career path that I choose, as long as it requires a substantial amount of schooling to get there. Because of his encouragement, I am inspired to continue pursuing higher education, and I can’t say that that drive would be so existent in my life if it were not for him.
I have learned many lessons from him when I didn’t even realize that a lesson was being taught to me. I think that this is an important element to a mentoring relationship; to encourage through lives many trials and inevitable mistakes without being overbearing or opinionated. He taught me about the importance of taking responsibility for wrong actions and saying I’m sorry when the situation calls for it. This has presented itself in my job as a mentor many times. The kids are such reminders of this lesson and I strive to be an example for them. I never thought they would be upset if I missed a meeting or if they couldn’t find me at school when they need to talk, but they are always upset with me later and I always try to take responsibility for the mistake.
Sometimes mentors are the people in the background letting you make inevitable mistakes and then helping you dig yourself out. I am so proud to have the opportunity to work for Partners and encourage the students that I work with to make their own mistakes and encourage them through the trials that they are handed.
Some of my mentee relationships are incredibly unexpected. The second week of school after having only quick interactions on the playground or at lunch I awkwardly asked my eight students if I could be their mentor. Children I never thought I would connect with are now as invaluable to my life as I hope I am to theirs. I think that an important part of a mentor/mentee relationship is the growth and connection that both parties get out of the relationship. If I can impact my students as much as they have impacted me, I can feel good about the job that I am doing.
The biggest lesson that Travis has taught me is that I can go anywhere, do anything and be anyone I want to be. I have all of the tools; as long as I try my hardest I can be successful. This is a tool that I try to teach the students that I mentor at Strawberry Park; that they have as good of a chance as anyone else to be the best, as long as they have the motivation, desire and drive to achieve it.
Brooke loves traveling, cooking healthy foods, exercise and being outdoors. She is excited for all of the opportunities that this community has to offer and is looking forward to exploring and living in Colorado! Partners is thrilled to have such a talented and caring individual serve on their team of AmeriCorps School-Based Mentors this year. Thank you for your service, Brooke, and for being such an amazing role model for your students.