I had signed up to be part of the Lancaster Chamber’s Women in Business Mentorship program. I filled out a brief survey about my interests and experiences, and asked to be partnered with a student from the School District of Lancaster, since I live in Lancaster City, and I wanted to get more involved with a family from my neighborhood.
When the school year rolled around in August, I met the student I would be partnered with for this year, Danaja, a junior at JP McCaskey in the Media Studies learning community. She was in one of those pivotal times in her life- figuring out what she wanted to do when she graduated from high school.
I could remember being there. Granted, it was only 7 years ago that I graduated from Manheim Township and was packing my bags to head off to the great tundra that is Syracuse to become an Orangemen. When you’re in high school, you feel like you’re making this huge decision that is going to be THE PATH for the rest of your life.
Danaja had interests that were unfamiliar to me- nursing, fashion, even looking into the Army Reserves. So, we started with a lot of practical stuff. We practiced interviewing, we did a DISC survey to learn more about her strengths, I set up job shadows for her at Lancaster General Hospital and at a local fashion boutique That Shuu Girl (she even got to walk in a fashion show!) I took her to a Chamber Mixer at the Railroad Museum to practice networking and to meet with people from diverse careers.
But, I think that students often have people in their life providing lots of practical advice- teachers, counselors, family, friends. I felt that my role as a mentor was to inspire her, believe in her, and give her confidence that she could be great at something that seems unfamiliar or scary. I truly believe that Danaja, who is creative, caring, and committed could be ALL of these things- a nurse that cares for babies, walks in runway fashion shows AND trains in the army reserves. I told Danaja that her life will change in ways that she can’t possibly imagine, and you can’t always map out all the things you will do and the person you will become when you’re in high school. But, trying new things, opening yourself up to experiences, and believing in yourself will lead you to a career and a life that you are passionate about.
When I saw Danaja the other week, she was getting her SENIOR PICTURES taken. Pretty amazing. She wrote me a letter that me being involved her life made her realize that someone from outside of her family cared about her and cared about her success. And I think that was my realization of what “mentoring” is. Mentoring is a two-sided relationship. And to start one, you don’t need to have the perfect resume, you don’t need to have all the answers, and you don’t need to be Mother Theresa. You have to be willing to genuinely care about the success and happiness of someone else, and do what you can to help get them there.
And hopefully, if you are like us, you will laugh a lot along the way 🙂
-Diana Martin, Lancaster County Community Foundation staff member