Tag Archives: mentor

Excited, Nervous, and So Proud

The following blog was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) coordinator and Transition Program Coordinator, Jacquelyn Privitera.

While there are countless ways that my job is fulfilling, sometimes, there are stories that really take the cake. My job is to help youth gain the skills they need to become successful members of their communities. Success will, of course, look different for each of them as they plan their futures and set their own goals. If I have been successful at my own job, they will all have the confidence and support to pursue whatever “success” looks like to them.

I’ve learned over the last seven years that there is often a lot of potential hiding behind a seemingly quiet student. Norma Puente is my favorite example of this. When I first started working with her at Margaret Long Wisdom High School, she largely kept to herself but would always participate when it was asked of her. Her sweet demeanor and the kindness she always showed to her classmates (and her ability to avoid joining in when all the students around her started to get rowdy) lead me to invite her to our annual Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program Conference in Washington D.C. that summer. Never having been on a plane, she was equal parts excited and nervous, but ultimately so proud of being considered for the opportunity and representing Houston.

When we arrived in D.C., there were students from RAMP sites around the country and without a hint of nerves or trepidation, they all became fast friends. I’ve heard so many stories over the years from these students that making friends was hard for them, but at this conference, you’d absolutely never know it. There is an immediate sense of camaraderie and any walls that they had up fall with breakneck fervor. I’ve never left this annual conference without crying at least once. These kids are truly inspiring…and putting them all together in one room? It’s something to behold.

Part of being invited to the conference is that each student has to deliver a presentation about their future career goals or projects they’ve worked on at their respective RAMP sites that school year. Norma chose to present on Criminology which would soon be her college major. The previously reserved student lit up with apparent passion when she got to talk about her future. She would be the first member of her family to go to college. She would help people who needed her. She would make something of herself – and she couldn’t wait to do any of it.

Norma was then given the opportunity to join local students at the Teen and Police Service Academy; an important and amazing partnership between the Houston Police Department and the University of Houston Clear Lake designed for at-risk youth and police officer mentors. She said it made her feel like a leader and made her confident in speaking in front of groups all while giving her more insight into the future she was carefully preparing for herself. The next summer, I asked her to return to Washington D.C. with me. She was the leader of the pack; guiding all the students who attended and offering encouragement to nervous students giving their presentations for the first time. During a long silence where a student couldn’t bring himself to speak from fear, she stood up, told us all to cheer him on, and got us all clapping. After that, he gave a great presentation. And I really looked at Norma in awe.

She graduated high school in 2019 and has gotten right to work since then. She is working at Care Optical where she deals with prescriptions and sealing glasses and she is enrolled at Houston Community College in their Criminology Program – yep, the first one in her family to go to college. When she graduates, she plans to attend the police academy and go for her Bachelor’s degree in Criminology.

I keep in touch with Norma and when I recently asked her if she thinks RAMP helped her, she responded:

RAMP helped me in so many ways. This program helped me get on track with my career path and to think ahead to the future. It helped me to grow and allowed me to come out of my bubble and interact with other people with no problem. It made me a leader and because of this program I can say I have grown as a person and am doing better. It made me want to keep up with my studies and to become someone.”

I’m proud to be a part of her story and I am so proud to know her and all the incredible students I meet through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s RAMP and Transition Programs. If you’re wondering, being a mentor will never waste a single minute of your time.

Learn more about participating in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s RAMP Program as a mentor or mentee.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

The ROI of Mentorship

The following story was written by Carmen Phillips. Carmen is the Montgomery County Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program and High School High Tech.

January 2021 is the 19th annual National Mentoring Month and I can’t help but wonder where we might all be right now without the influence of a mentor.  Imagine, for a moment, a world without Apple Computers, Microsoft or Facebook; a world without Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa or even Marlon Brando as the Godfather.  This, my friends is a world without mentors.  Some of the most successful and brilliant minds of the last century had one thing in common.  They all had a mentor.

So, what does it mean to be a mentor?  According to world-renowned speaker and author Bob Proctor, “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself and helps bring it out of you.”  I’m sure many of you can dig deep and think back to a time in your life when you looked up to someone for direction or guidance and approval.   Someone who changed the trajectory of your life.   A coach, a teacher or a boss perhaps.  Or perhaps, like many young people in America you had no one.   Well, you wouldn’t be alone.  More than 1 in 3 young people, an estimated 16 million, never had an adult mentor of any kind while they were growing up, according the national report The Mentoring Effect published in 2014.  This population includes an estimated 9 million at-risk youth who will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor, making them less likely to graduate high school,  go on to college and lead healthy productive lives.

Photo of young adults and mentors

For those 9 million at-risk youth, mentorship is a life-line.  It’s make or break and sadly in some cases, life or death.   It takes one caring adult to take interest and invest just a little bit of time into a young person’s life to forever change its course. Whether it’s a attending a football game, an occasional bowling night, a weekly text or just checking in on their report card, the smallest investment in a youth’s life results in some of the largest gains.  Not only for the youth, but for the mentor and the community in which they live.  In fact, according to a study cited by David Shapiro, President and CEO of MENTOR, every dollar invested in quality youth mentoring programs yields a $3 return in benefits to society at a minimum.  I think it’s safe to say that even Warren Buffet (who, by the way, mentored Microsoft mogul Bill Gates) would consider that a pretty darn good Return On Investment (ROI). 

The Mentoring Effect study also found that 76% of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate college and 45% of all at-risk youth with a mentor are now enrolled in some form of postsecondary education. So what do the numbers tell us? That mentoring makes a difference; it improves outcomes, it increases graduation rates, it reduces the risk of drug and alcohol use, it builds healthy interpersonal relationships and fosters measurable success in our at-risk youth in America.  

So, what’s not to love about Mentoring?  If you are interested in helping change the trajectory of a young person’s life and want more information about donating your time, skills or dollars to our at-risk Youth Mentoring Programs here at Easter Seals Greater Houston visit our website at www.EasterSealsHouston.org or reach out to us at 713-838-9050.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Interviewing for the Future

Being a good interviewer is a skill we should all have. I got my first job slicing meats and scooping salads in our grocery store’s deli, but I imagine that’s only because my dad worked there. I was hardly interview ready and showed up wearing jeans. Luckily practice makes perfect and throughout the years I’ve gained the skills necessary to feel confident when I sit across from the person who may or may not make it possible for me to pay my bills. But, teenagers are often terrified of the idea of an interview just as I had once been.HSHT MID 2017-19

Interviewing skills, resume writing, soft skills, and professionalism are all heavily covered topics in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s High School/High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) classes. We want our students to ace any interview they walk in to and that takes a lot of practice. Leading up to our annual Mock Interview Day, we talk about what they should wear and how they should answer popular interview questions as well as why they should smile, make eye contact, and have good firm handshakes. We do everything we can to prepare our youth and they usually seem ready to go but inevitably, when they line up in the hallway to begin the first of their three short mock interviews, the panic sets in. I can understand why – our volunteer interviewers are very professionally dressed, sitting tall and stoic in their seats and it immediately makes all of the students doubt their skills and forget everything we taught them. However, over the course of the day, something really great happens. You can see these young people feel confident and proud of themselves. They leave their first interview with a grade sheet that usually tells the same tale – they did well, but have a few things they need to work on. At the second interview, they’ve worked on these shortcomings and did a pretty good job! By their third, they’re old pros comparing near perfect scores with each other in the hallway. Watching a young person believe they can do something well is pretty amazing.

HSHT MID 2017-45This year, Carmen Phillips, the newest member of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s High School/High Tech team, hosted her own Mock Interview Day and included a fun new activity that got students talking with each other and moving around. By making each student their own business cards to share and use for networking with other students, Carmen was able to make every student social. Even the most shy or reserved students made an effort to network with others and talk about themselves in between mock interviews. This was a fun new mock interview day inclusion that we will be using every year to get our youth excited about sharing what they know with other people.

HSHT MID 2017-05Yvonne Kelly and I enjoyed watching students at our Mock Interview Day in League City cut each other in line to be able to do their second or third interviews before one another because they had gotten such great scores and couldn’t wait to do it again! We had a funny and boisterous group this year and they made the day so fun.

Watching all of our youth participate, feel accomplished, and actually be excited about interviewing is such a reward for us as each Mock Interview Day ends. We can’t wait to see what next year brings as we prepare our students for their transition out of high school and into the world of college and work!

Jacquie Privitera Miller, RAMP and Transition Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

N.A.S.A: It IS Rocket Science

We all know NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Space City infrastructure of the Johnson nasaSpace Center, but for a moment, I like to pretend that NASA has a new acronym:  Never Assume Someone’s Ability.   This summer, the Easter Seals Greater Houston High School High Tech Program was again honored to have interns working inside the Johnson Space Center alongside college interns, engineers, and even rocket scientists.  After meeting with one High School High Tech Summer Intern, I learned that Matthew’s position was far from most adolescent summer jobs.

Matthew was tasked with developing, testing, and implementing an inter-department network for video conferences.  This system would allow the various programs of NASA to communicate in real-time from distant locations.  In addition, it would be secure from any external eavesdropping to safeguard future works and works-in-progress.  HSHT Coordinator Yvonne Kelly commented that when Matthew first began attending High School High Tech activities, he was a different person—he was shy, barely spoke and refrained from eye contact.  Now, he was sitting up tall in his chair and energetically recalling his NASA job duties.  Matthew’s mother added to this assessment by stating:  “Matthew has really come out of his shell.”  She continued to tell me how the family was uncertain about Matthew’s future—whether he would be able to attend college or even obtain and maintain a job.  Teary-eyed, and with a mother’s sincerity, she thanked High School High Tech for providing Matthew the opportunity to gain exposure, experience, and confidence.

So it is fitting that this summer, NASA, Johnson Space Center welcomes the installment of Space Shuttle Independence which will be permanently displayed atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 747.  I gaze in awe at the shuttle perched upon the much larger 747 and I see Matthew.  I see Matthew propped up by his family, his community, and by this opportunity through the High School High Tech program.  I see Matthew, with his new-found confidence, soaring to his own independence.  I see Matthew and I think:  Never Assume Someone’s Ability.

Charles Martin, High School High Tech, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News