A Mentor’s Journey

by Donna J. Banzon, Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentor, and Freidricka M. Camille, Mentoring Success Specialist

Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Often times in mentoring spaces, the narrative focuses on the mentee experience and the impact mentoring has on the mentees of the program.  Very little narrative is produced that reflects the journey of learning for the mentors.  Are mentors learning? If so, how has the mentoring relationship changed them? What new insights are mentors gaining about themselves? What skills, if any, do mentors develop from participating in mentoring?
This blog post is an attempt to explore the impact of mentoring on the mentor from the introspective vantage point of a mentor.  Donna J. Banzon has been an AALEAD Mentor for a little over two years. Read her post to get a glimpse into the mentor exoerience. 

AALEAD Mentoring Pair: mentee Aisha M. (left) and mentor Donna B. (right) at the AALEAD Day of Service and Mentoring event held in partnership with Martha’s Table.

I remember that cool fall day in November 2017 when I first met Aisha, my college mentee. We met up for bubble tea with Freidricka Camille, Mentoring Success Specialist from AALEAD. I remember being a little anxious about being a mentor and asking myself, “Would I be able to offer valuable insights?” “What if I’m not sure where to begin?” The worries quickly disappeared during the first introductory match meeting.

Our first match meeting helped us set up expectations for the year, break the ice with fun getting-to-know-you activities, and facilitate productive conversations about our communication and scheduling preferences. I am grateful that the matching process was so intentional. As a public health professional working at a local nonprofit, I was excited to be matched with an undergraduate student pursuing the field of public health. Aisha’s down-to-earth personality and positive energy made me feel more comfortable about my role. I also remembered what it was like to be a sophomore in college and valued the people in my life who shared stories about their experiences in college, development of time management skills and productive habits, exploration of various tracks within public health, as well as their pursuit of internship and career opportunities. I saw this as an opportunity to walk alongside someone in their journey just as others walked with me.

Looking back over the past two years of being in the program with Aisha, I’m amazed at how fast time has gone by and I’m grateful for the time we continue to spend together. We often meet over tea, a snack, and/or a full meal since the love of food is something we have in common. When we meet, we share updates on work-life balance, Aisha’s classes, and her goals in the upcoming year. Aisha reminds me of what it was like to be in college with an open mind and eagerness to learn from professionals in the field. Her work ethic is motivating. She successfully balances school, work, family and friend commitments. When I can, I share what it was like for me to navigate college, and at times, it feels like I’m sharing notes of encouragement to my past self while sharing a reminder to enjoy this phase in life since it seems to go by in a flash. Given all of our daily activities, Aisha and I also share ways on how we can both prioritize self-care. These conversations are always refreshing as I try to practice what I preach with regard to exercise and healthy eating. In a way, our relationship serves as a gentle reminder to be kind to myself as I, too, am on a journey of personal and professional growth.

Aisha has also taught me to be more fully present. When we’re together, I remind myself of how important it is to unplug for the moment so that I can listen and learn about her goals related to leadership development, academics, and her future career in public health. Our talks have inspired me to set my own goals and write them down on paper. It helps to have an accountability buddy and someone to share challenges and successes with no matter how big or small.

I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude as I remember all of the people who have been part of my journey and continue to inspire me to be the best version of myself. Aisha is one of those people. I am grateful for our relationship as it continues to ground me especially on days when I feel caught up in tasks and the hustle and bustle of day-to-day responsibilities. Relationships are powerful and as I continue to reflect, I realize a strong relationship is at the center of every growth opportunity. The team at AALEAD has helped us nurture our relationship through annual events, mentorship support resources, and tools to guide one’s personal development.

For those who are considering getting involved with the AALEAD mentorship, I say – do it! Take the plunge. No need to be perfect – there’s no such thing. Embrace the relationship and remember, the AALEAD team will support you along the way.

Thank you, Donna, for sharing your introspective insights as mentor with the AALEAD community. Donna’s blog is a testament that mentors are also on a journey of personal and professional growth, and how meaningful it is to have a mentee be a part of that journey

To learn more about becoming an AALEAD Mentor, sign up for an information session by emailing Freidricka Camille, Mentoring Success Specialist, at fcamile@aalead.org.

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