My last day with Partners in Routt County will be May 16th, and I wanted to write a blog post paying homage to the wonderful organization that is PRC. I was 21, about to graduate from college with a Bachelor’s in English of all things, and did not have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to get more experience working with kids (for a period of time I entertained the idea of being a teacher), and I knew that I wanted to be in Colorado.
Since I was young, vacationing in Winter Park was standard and I had long ago fallen in love with the mountains (even though I had never before been on skis). Several of my friends were doing AmeriCorps programs across the nation, it sounded like an amazing opportunity to get great experience while building my resume and figuring out the trajectory that my life would take. That is when I discovered the listing to become a Partners in Routt County AmeriCorps School-Based Mentor. I wrestled with leaving my hometown of 21 years, going to a rural community where I knew no one, to work with kids who I was terrified wouldn’t like me. Still to this day, this is without a doubt the decision which most impacted my life by changing my entire life perspective, my career path, and instilling within me a thirst for social change that had not fully manifested.
My first day in Soroco Middle School, I had no idea what I was doing. I relied heavily on my co-mentor, had some incredibly awkward small talk conversations with preteens, and essentially felt like the new kid in school. I never moved or transferred schools when I was growing up, so this was a whole new experience for me. Over time, however, I got more and more comfortable, realized that I was actually very good at connecting with kids when I was just being myself, and most importantly, I did feel like I was directly making an impact in their lives.
During my second term as a School-Based Mentor, I will never forget one particular girl I had been working with all year. We had had ups and downs, moments when both of us were frustrated with each other, but neither of us gave up and were always able to come back to her goals and focus on how to achieve them. When she invited me to her end of the year portfolio and presented on her academic success, improvement in her attendance, and her dream of becoming an Epidemiologist, I was amazed to see in her thirty minute PowerPoint presentation how far she had come. I have never been more proud of anyone than I was in that moment. Little moments like that littered my mentoring experience, and I realized the true power of mentoring and being a positive role model in a young person’s life.
This year, as Partners AmeriCorps VISTA Development Assistant (a mouthful of a title!), I was able to be on the receiving end of some much needed guidance and support. After two years of mentoring youth, advising and offering counsel, praising success and admonishing poor behavior, it was a welcomed opportunity to have someone be my mentor. And this year has not just been one person being my support and life coach, but instead the whole Partners’ staff. Each and every one of them offered me encouragement, advice, love and support and taught me the ins and outs of nonprofit life. If it were not for the Partners team, I would not be who I am today.
As I mentioned, my last day with Partners will be this Friday, when I will become Grand Futures Prevention Coalition’s Program Director in Grand County. I could not have been offered this amazing opportunity without the nurturing guidance of my Partners family and the many children that have shifted my world view. And for that, I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for the memories, the experiences, the highs and the lows, the helping hands, for encouraging me to live confidently and dream big. Thank you, thank you, thank you.