By Rachel Humphreys
Becky grew up in Grand Rapids, but spent nearly a decade living in Los Angeles. In LA she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Media Arts and Animation and started working in the media industry while also teaching art classes at the local Boys and Girls Club.
When Becky returned to Michigan, she felt some culture shock moving from Southern California, and wanted to find a way to reconnect with her community here in West Michigan. A friend of hers was a mentor with Affinity and had shared the need for 100+ mentors. Becky decided that was something she could do something about.
In 2015 she was matched with Lupita. Becky describes Lupita as “incredibly compassionate, smart as a whip, and hilarious.” She notes there have been several times she’s been in tears laughing so hard with her mentee.
Although she had had various experiences working with kids as a camp counselor, volunteer, and daycare worker, becoming one student’s mentor was new and a little nerve wracking. Early on she remembers feeling “a little wrongfooted” and worrying about whether or not she was making an impact.
“In the beginning it was a lot of reading books, however once she discovered there were legos in the Mentor Center that’s all we do,” jokes Becky. “[Lupita] makes very elaborate lego sets, often with a storyline, characters, and complex plot.”
After her initial nervousness settled, she and Lupita found their own rhythm and determined together what their mentoring hour looks like. Each week Becky asks three things “What’s the best part, the worst part, and the coolest thing she learned that week?” It’s become part of their weekly routine and Lupita has even started to be the one to ask Becky about her week.
Becky and Lupita eventually applied for “School-Based Plus” status, which allows mentors to take students on independent outings and has an added layer of screening and training. When thinking about their mentoring relationship, Becky explains, “I am a grown-up friend to her. She texts me every now and again things like, ‘I missed you last week. I’m glad we’ll see each other.’ We go to museums, orchards, and Lupita even came for cookie-baking with my family.”
Becky makes time each week to connect with Lupita’s family, “I usually walk her home after mentoring and hang out with her family. They are very similar to mine, close knit and really value education. Her family are super warm and compassionate people. In fact, her mom and my mom have become friends. She has a little brother and older sister, opposite of mine. Lupita thinks it’s hilarious.”
Becky is in the process of completing her second Bachelor’s, this time in Urban Forestry, and Lupita is planning on attending her graduation ceremony to cheer her on.
Over the past few years she’s witnessed Lupita grow and mature, “There’s more depth to our conversations. She’s moved from a self-focus to noticing what’s going on in the community and world. She’ll even bring up politics. There’s an emotional intelligence that’s really grown. She’s very empathetic and thinks about others a lot. ”
Becky found herself pleasantly surprised about the impact this has had on her own personal life. “It’s hard to articulate how. I don’t have any kids myself. But now there’s one person I’m super invested in. I’m interested in her friendships, how she’s changing as a person, and I’ll wonder things like whether or not she figured out her new locker combination.”
Not only has mentoring impacted her personal life, but Becky’s perspective of the world has changed as well, “The nature of having to help someone else sort out how they feel about something makes you more open as a person. It gives you a more deeper and richer understanding as life as a first-generation american, especially in this political climate.”
Becky’s response to those thinking of mentoring? “Absolutely, you need to do it. It’s the most fun hour of the week. Especially if you both decide to be a plus match. You’re able to share experiences in your own community with someone else and offer other perspectives. She has me laughing all the time.”
She adds that the staff support is amazing, “They remember me, remember to follow up, and offer one-on-one support the entire time. No one is forgotten or gets lost in the mixed, even through staff changes. Mentors and students don’t get left behind.”