Invest in the future…. be a Mentor
Working on my graduate degrees, I was the only Hispanic in all of my classes. My professors were other than Hispanics – Caucasians per se, and I was volunteering and working with international students. And my family is Caucasian, so I had very limited contact with Hispanics. I always heard how important it was to have a mentor so I tried very hard to get one - I wanted a Hispanic mentor. But, somehow, I could not get one. Everybody was busy. None of the Hispanics I was trying to approach had the time for me, only my advisor and her husband – who were Caucasians. There was nothing wrong there for they were kind and patient with me. They helped me a lot; but as a Hispanic I wanted to talk to other Hispanic professionals. I wanted to know how they did it (college, career, family, community, etc). I wanted to be inspired and encouraged by them. I wanted to learn from them. I wanted Hispanic role models in my life; but found none in my school or my community.
It was 2004 and I was almost in the last year of my doctorate when I started working with an African-American (Cornell). Though not perfect, she somehow liked me a lot and gave me the opportunity of working hands-on what I nowadays do. And, it was she who introduced me to a Filipino lady (Gigi). Though Gigi was not my mentor and friend at that time, I learned so much by collaborating with her office and by working alongside her. My passion for diversity was reinforced by seeing all the wonderful things she did for minority students. She herself had been one. The time and opportunities she gave me to work with her were too many to recount all of them. She became a mentor and one of my closest friends.
During the beginning of my professional career I met another mentor. I called her “My Champion”. Her name was Dr. Lofton. I love talking about her for she was instrumental in what I was to become and what I was to do for my people, Hispanic people. It was she (and I do not even remember how I met her; though I am pretty sure it was through Gigi or through my work at the international office) who pushed me to do things that I never saw myself doing. She always kept me in mind for things that would benefit the Hispanic Community. She always saw me as a great contribution at the institution where I was working. She talked to me, advised me and helped me think things through. It was with her help that I made my commitment to work for diversity and minority students’ success.
But, I also have to mention Dr. Mock. He is a role model to me. Not many college administrators have integrity like he does. I don’t know many people in a position of power who are as humble as he is. He always had the time to ask me how I was doing personally and professionally whenever he saw me on campus. His questions about my whereabouts were always honest and true questions. His suggestions were too many to recount, though I did not pay much attention to his advice. He is one of those people I wished I had listened more, but I did not. Life circumstances sent him away (to another state); but when I needed him, he was there for me. He called me, encouraged me, guided me and helped me make decisions that would benefit me and my career. I do not think he realizes how much he has helped me but he has and he still does.
As you can see, I had mentors who invested in me. Sadly, they were NOT Hispanics; but, they were professionals, people who truly care for me. The female Hispanic mentor I looked up to always brought me down. She never believed in me. I was “too young” or I did not “have the experience” were just some of her comments. She never thought I was smart enough to get a doctorate. And, I was disappointed. However, my African-American mentors invested time and energy in my growing as a person and as a professional. They invested time getting to know me personally and professionally. They invested in me because they knew that, later on, I could make an impact in others. They invested in me because they knew I was worth investing in.
If it were not for my mentors, I would not be doing what I do now – working with college students, regardless of their ethnicity. I would not be as passionate for diversity as I am today. I would not be as concerned as I am now for the successful college graduation of our Hispanic students. Being a mentor (especially to Hispanic kids) is much more important now than it was before. Being a mentor will give you the opportunity to impact their future, our Future! Being a mentor will not only change the live of a Hispanic kid, will change your life as well. It does take time and energy, but is well worth it. So invest in our future, Be a mentor to somebody today!!
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 912-445-0226. I would love to answer some of your questions!