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 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. Mexico
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.