Monday, May 28, 2012

May Mentor of the Month

Deborah Pontifex

When Deborah’s mentee won the first place prize in the Santa Barbara Young Poets Contest Junior High Division, and walked up onto the stage to read her winning piece about her absent father, she was not just reading a poem, but bravely taking the most important leap of her young life. In facing a fear of public speaking and a deeply personal emotional wound, she proved to herself, and to the world, that she is strong enough to take on anything she sets her mind to. The transformation of this shy young girl into a glowingly confident young woman would not have been possible without the help of her mentor, Deborah.

Deborah’s mentee and her mother moved to Santa Barbara from Mexico in her 4th grade year, speaking no English. Her father remained in Mexico. Her mother requested a mentor for her daughter in hopes of providing her with the academic and emotional support she desperately needed as a new and shy student, with a working single mother, and a new baby sister to take care of at home.

Deborah’s mentee was matched up at the beginning of 6th grade. Deborah raved about her young mentee’s amazing focus on her goals of going to college and becoming a doctor or dentist, and her sweet personality. However, Deborah’s mentee’s shy disposition and other challenges have, on occasion, slowed her progress. In their nearly three years together Deborah has tirelessly focused on improving her mentee’s confidence in any way she could; by helping her excel academically, by being her friend and confidant, and always encouraging her to take on new opportunities like applying for summer camps and scholarships. Several times Deborah’s mentee succeeded in winning these scholarships, but when faced with the scary, new responsibility of actually attending these programs, she deferred. While Deborah couldn’t help but feel frustrated to see her wonderful mentee on the edge of success but too scared to step forward, she continued to support her decisions no matter what, knowing that it was just part of the process. Deborah arranged to pick her mentee up from school the day that she was to read her winning poem. As her mentee practiced reading the poem aloud at a quiet coffee shop, she began to cry with the emotion the poem evoked in her, saying “I can’t do this.” Deborah coached her through it, talking to her about her father and what the poem meant to her. After dropping her mentee off at home, Deborah kept expecting a call from her to cancel the reading, but it never came. And when she picked her mentee up that evening she remembers her looking ready, glowing, and confident like never before.

Walking onto that stage was Deborah’s mentee’s big moment of facing her fears and the painful emotions of the loss of her father, of rising to a challenge. “This was the first time in since I began mentoring that I had seen her do something so difficult, something so intimidating to her,” said Deborah, “and to see her sense of achievement and empowerment because she rose to the occasion was the greatest moment of our time together.” For Deborah’s mentee, this was a moment of transformation from child to young adult, and she will never look back.

This moment would not have happened if Deborah had not been there to support her all the way, so thank you Deborah for everything you do, and congratulations for being our May Mentor of the Month!!

Here is Annel’s winning poem:

One pair of golden earrings is what I have treasured since I was three years old.
Just one pair of simple, super small, slippery soft, shiny, golden hoop earrings.
This is all, nothing else.
They are as valuable to me as my life.
My mom just laughs, saying, “Oh, you silly girl, they are just earrings.”
I stopped wearing them, and hid them in a box, for that same reason.
But, to me, they are more than earrings.
They are a memory of little things that I can hardly remember, from when I was small.
But, as I grew older, these memories grew bigger each day of my beginning life.
They are my past, and yet part of me now.
They have been touched by someone’s hands with my own blood.Someone very important and missed,but only by me.
They have been through my first day of kindergarten in Mexico to my first day in the U.S.
They have been through my sixth grade graduation, and through my first year in junior high.
They have been through my first communion.
They will be with me when I graduate high school, go to college, and get my first job.
Even when I meet my true love, marry, and have children, they will still be with me.
I don’t mind remembering him; I don’t care what others say.
No, I don’t regret anything.
I don’t regret who I am; I don’t regret any of my past, not one second.
Because my past has formed me, has made me who I am today.
I am proud of who I am today.
These earrings have been hanging from my ears for 10 years.
They have a precious value that nothing else has.
They never judge me; they just hug my ears, as if they are always listening to me.
These golden earrings are the only thing I have from my father.
They symbolize half of me; they hold half of my memories, and half of my blood.
They represent my father’s absence, and all that I could have had with him.
Especially his love for his only daughter.

What Do You Think?: Snacking


Sara loves to snack, especially on candy, soda and other things from the vending machines at school. She is always hungry, but rarely eats a full meal unless she's at home for dinner. Sara never has time for breakfast at home, usually because she is rushing to school, and there aren't a lot of breakfast food options at home. Her parents don’t really eat breakfast either so they never bother her about it.

Sara has been feeling tired, and sometimes dizzy, during classes while at school. She only feels better after drinking a soda or getting a candy bar at the vending machines, but then she becomes tired again and it's hard for her to pay attention in class, especially at the end of the day. Sara is confused because every morning when she gets a soda, she usually feels energized and awake, but throughout the day she becomes more and more tired and craves more sugar or soda to get her through the day. 

Questions for Discussion: 

1. Why do you think Sara is tired throughout the day? What can Sara do to feel more energized? 

2. What kinds of food do you think Sara should be eating? 

3. Do you think that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? How often do you eat breakfast? Do you think that if Sara ate breakfast she wouldn't be as tired? 

4. Why is healthy snacking important? Do you think your food choices affect your energy? How? List what you would eat on a school day with your mentor.

5. What kinds of food do you think are "fun" and tasty? What kinds of food do you think are "healthy"? Are there any foods that you think are fun and healthy?


**If you are hungry a lot, this is natural- during adolescence, a person's body, AND you're brain, demand more nutrients to grow and develop in a healthy way. Snacks are a great way to get more vitamins and nutrients in between meals. 

**Snacking can help hold you over in between meals, and if you're hungry in between breakfast and lunch, pack snacks like fruit, trail mix, or cheese and crackers to keep you satisfied. 

**Nuts have 'healthy fats' which help with brain function and concentration. They have a perfect combination of fat and protein so that you can feel full, satisfied, and stay focused while working on that math homework right after school. A good snack would be peanut butter on rice cakes, or a handful of almonds. 

**Snacking throughout the day keeps your blood sugar levels balanced and even, so you don't feel tired. If you can't focus throughout the day, you might need more health snacks in between meals. Pack snacks like fruit, milk (regular or soy), and nuts to keep yourself from feeling hungry or tired between bigger meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

**Breakfast is an important meal to remember! Count the hours from when you fall asleep to when you first eat the next day. There are probably over 8 hours that you don't eat! This semi-starvation mode on a person's body, especially a growing boy or girl, can be harmful to physical, intellectual and behavioral development. 

**Kids rely on breakfast and regular food intake because their growing bodies and developing brains need the nutrients and vitamins.

**Studies report that those who start the day with breakfast think better, have a better mood, maintain a healthier weight, and have more energy to burn!

How Mentors Can Help:

**Make a list with your mentee of the type of snack foods they usually eat, and help them differentiate the bad snack foods from foods that have more nutritional value.

**Ask them about their meals at home, whether or not they have family dinners, or breakfast. What kind of food does their family keep at home? How can they incorporate healthy snacking with what is available to them at home? 

**Offer suggestions for breakfast like oatmeal, juice, and water. Also suggest easy ways for them to pack a lunch, or at least a few snacks. 

**Make it a game: Have them focus on healthy snacking and eating for a week and have them journal their progress. Go over how they feel; if they feel more energized and focused etc, and where there are challenges in maintaining this type of eating, such as accessibility to certain foods and family habits. Make sure to not criticize the family and their eating habits, but gently suggest different choices and their benefits.

**Compare and contrast the difference of sugar and nutrients in certain foods. How much sugar is really in a coca cola can? What kind of energy can one get from sugar? What kind of energy can one get from apples? (sugar stacks link)

**If your mentee is interested you can have the school nurse talk to you both about nutrition. Education is the first step towards making healthy choices!

Additional Resources: 

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