I used to say that there wasn’t a moment of my life that I’d do over. Regrets were not my thing. To me, even the moments of wrong decisions were simply lessons learned. But life has a way of changing your perspective. When you get to your 40s you realize that some possibly not-so-positive emotions may have gotten in the way of a different life outcome, or at the very least an experience you may have enjoyed.
As I reflected on this and began to really think about the missed opportunities due to my choices in high school—summer program at Harvard, prom, graduation—I realized that in retrospect there were two things I could have done differently.
I would care less…
- about being cool
- about the zit on my chin and uncontrollably frizzy hair
- about impressing boys
- about hanging out with my friends
- about fun after school
- about my picture in the year book
I would care more…
- about being involved
- about my grades
- about impressing myself
- about walking across the stage at graduation with my friends
- about life after school
- about my achievements listed in the year book
Yes, just two things: cared less and cared more. If I were to do it all over again, I would put more thought on what was important. I would look past the things and the people in front of me to see the potential my future held for me. I would put my dreams front and center and not allow life to fool me into thinking they were too far out of my reach
From traveling the world to ensuring its education
From high school drop out to strong (and educated) Latina
My mother, my mirror
I strongly believe in the power of mentoring and have written about it on a few occasions. I’ve profiled the Latino BIGS of NYC program as well as touched upon what it’s meant in my own life. Being involved in the development of our youth has been a personal mission since I was in my 20s and it has truly affected my life. So when the opportunity arose to get involved in another program, I jumped at the chance. The Spark Program didn’t disappoint and I got to meet an aspiring young, Latina writer, Adaleyna.
For eight weeks Adelayna came to my office for two hours during which time she would job shadow me. Because my job consisted of some pretty mundane duties, I tried to break it up by taking that time to take a coffee or lunch break so we could discuss real writing. I even had the opportunity to introduce her to my published writer friend, Ulises Silva of Digital Decaf (soon to be renamed) blog.
During the student’s time in the program they’re required to put together a final project highlighting what they learned during their eight weeks. Then parents and mentors are invited to a final event where everyone gets to see the project. Because the eight weeks are spent at the workplace and you only get two hours per week, it’s hard to feel as if you’re teaching the student anything but the truth is that it’s just an introduction to a potential career, giving a young person a glimpse of the possibilities his/her future holds.
Was it easy?
No. 8th graders are not easy to impress and can have a tendency to look bored all the time. It takes an adult with a thick skin not to try to jump through hoops at the first sign of an eye roll on the student’s part. And trying to make your sometimes boring job seem fun to them is a bit of a task.
Was it worth it?
Most definitely. During the evening of their presentations when she showed off the article she had written for our site, I really felt as if I made an impact in her life, however small. And in the end if all I left her with was a feeling that she too could do it, then that was enough.
Presentation time! She doesn’t look bored :)
Check out the Spark Program. They are currently in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Download a fact sheet 2012 Chicago- Mentor with Spark .