By Elizabeth S., Current AALEAD Mentor
Photos Courtesy of Elizabeth S., Current AALEAD Mentor & Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
As we near the end of National Mentoring Month, check out Elizabeth’s great story and inspiring words below. Thank you to Elizabeth and all of our wonderful mentors – we are so grateful for you and honored to have you in our Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) family and community! Happy National Mentoring Month! -Tina Ngo, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator
I first heard about AALEAD around the end of 2010 from a roommate of mine who had participated in the program as a mentor a couple years before. As a second-generation Asian American (child of immigrants), I felt that this program was for me because second-generation Asian Americans are exactly who AALEAD serves.
Growing up, I felt that my parents had a hard time empathizing with the fact that I had one foot in their culture and the other foot in another culture. Daily, I felt torn between the norms and expectations of my household and of the world outside and never felt like I could fully relate to any of my friends or family. As a result, it took me a while to understand my identity and be comfortable with who I was. I joined AALEAD hopeful that maybe I could be someone a second-generation child could relate to. After seeing the Mentoring Program at work, I couldn’t be more impressed with the AALEAD Mentoring Program and how AALEAD staff foster the confidence and sense of identity of each AALEADer.
I joined AALEAD in March 2011 and expected to get paired up with a pre-teen. I showed up to meet Tender, my mentee, at her house, thought she looked very small for her age, and finally asked how old she was. She was eight! Today, that little girl is now 12. Wow, how time flies! Also, lo and behold, Tender is the little sister of my now former roommate’s former mentee. Small world!
Being Tender’s mentor has taught me so much, and has given me a different perspective about my own life and childhood. Mentoring Tender has taught me more about patience, communication, relationship building, and having an open mind than any other experience I’ve had. Seeing life through her eyes helps me understand what is going on with her and how I can help foster her growth. We have been paired up through major transitions of Tender’s childhood – through her elementary years, her pre-teen years, and we are now about to enter her teen years – so truthfully, mentoring has not been the easiest ride as her needs were always changing.
Through the years, I have had to learn how to balance the “big sister” role, which was probably because she was so young when we began, and “trustworthy friend,” now that she is developing and figuring out her own identity. Watching Tender grow from a shy and timid 8-year-old into the witty, confident, and intelligent person she has become has been and is the most rewarding aspect of being her mentor. I hope that I have had even a fraction of the positive impact on Tender that she has had on me. I am excited for Tender’s future and hope for her to know the world of possibilities she has in front of her. As we enter another phase of Tender’s life, I look forward to sharing more memories with her, being there for her, and us growing together.