The Bezos Scholars Program inspires and challenges young people to act on their passions and collaborate with others to address community needs. This year-long scholarship is a learning opportunity for both Scholars and educators to work together, learn about themselves, others, and their community. Along the way, many Scholars and educators have given and received advice that has helped them make an impact on their lives, communities, and get where they are today.
In honor of National Mentoring Month and the great mentors and mentees we have throughout the Bezos Scholars program we’re sharing Scholar, educator, program staff, and notable reflections and advice on the importance of mentoring.
Go Boldly Forward
Go boldly forward. I’ve been told this countless times, in countless ways, and it has proven to be the single greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received. This is advice I often give when asked to weigh in on decision-making and next-steps of others.
There are two ways to go boldly forward. One is running away. Sometimes taking unnecessary risks and leaping wildly into the unknown is a fervent attempt to leave something behind. The second, after you’ve spent time with yourself, understand who you are, what motivates you and why you do what you do, then, to go boldly forward, fearlessly, knowing that any decision you make is grounded in a firm foundation of truth.
I am thankful for the many mentors that have helped me to grow into myself, and am always encouraging others to live fearlessly and boldly! – Nicole Hanson, Youth Leadership Programs Manager with the Bezos Scholars Program.
The biggest thing about having a mentor, for me, has been that I always have someone to ask questions. I have a lot of questions and a good mentor never makes me feel like the questions are useless, even if they are unnecessary. – 2012 Scholar Samantha Laney is currently working at the Theater UP Academy in Dorchester and attending the Charles Sposato School of Graduate Education.
It’s Ok to Make Mistakes
You can plan, you can prepare, and do everything right, but sometimes bad things will happen or things won't go as you intended. You really can't control that, but you can control how you respond to it. Will you get upset? Learn from it? Go with the flow? Find the positive in the unexpected? Your reaction can help determine whether something is positive or negative. For me, a perfectionist at times, this bit of advice gives me permission for "mistakes" to happen and permission to realize I can't control everything (except myself). – 2015 educator, Diana Casola is currently working with the third year of City Scribes, a school writing program for middle school students created with 2015 Bezos Scholar Ciara Mulcahy in Roanoke, Virginia.
We’re Our Worst Critics
This is pretty cliché - but we really are our worst critics. I often give advice to others that I myself can't follow! Even if someone doesn't take the advice I give, or I don't take the advice someone gives me, just the process of talking through things together with someone who is there to support you is helpful. – 2013 Scholar Montita Sowapark is an A.B. Candidate; Biomedical Engineering and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard College.
Make Your Own Opportunities
During my freshman year of high school, one of my teachers told me that if opportunities aren't knocking on my door, I need to go out and create my own. Sure, good things may come to those who wait, but those people are going to be waiting for a long time. I would rather go out and get my hands dirty creating my own opportunities. Since this advice, this is how I've lived my life. I seek out the opportunities available to me, and when necessary, force the world to yield opportunities to me. – 2017 Scholar Eric Tran, is currently working on his Local Ideas Festival with educator Chellyn Castro Boquiren in San Diego, California.
Find Supportive People
Surround yourself with people who support and energize you. Many of the people I admire most have echoed this advice, which I've found so helpful for self-care and personal growth/challenge. – 2009 Scholar Jimmitti Teysir is currently a second-year medical student at Mount Sinai in New York.
Mentoring is Powerful
I believe deeply in the power of mentoring relationships to respond to and address the complexity of the student experience. At iMentor, we see this dynamic play out each and every day, across thousands of relationships, as our mentors support first-generation college students on the path to college success.
Mentoring is a powerful intervention for supporting students on this journey because our mentors personalize their support to speak to each student’s idiosyncratic motivations and challenges while addressing the intersectionality among issues that our young people must navigate to graduate college with a degree.
Along the way, our students and mentors develop intentional relationships across difference, building empathy and understanding for one another, and demonstrating the kind of engagement that makes our communities more vibrant. We are proud to celebrate National Mentoring Month as a member of a community of organizations that believe in the power of these relationships and the impact we can achieve together, one young person at a time, one relationship at a time. – Mike O’Brien, CEO, iMentor
Learn from One Another
A mentorship shouldn’t be based on who knows more, who is more advanced in their career, or who can help the other get ahead. A mentorship should be based on what we can learn from each other to make this a more equitable and safe place. – 2010 Scholar Jonathan Karp.
Mentoring is Good for You Too!
The greatest thing that I have learned about myself through mentoring others is that I genuinely enjoy helping others and I gain a sense of great satisfaction when I can help others achieve their goals. At first, whenever I performed an act of service, it was to fulfill requirements like community-service hours for school. Once I get more involved with one-on-one work and service that resembled mentoring, I realized there's more to all of this than I had initially thought. I’ve known what it’s like to struggle socially, academically, and emotionally; being able to help others through those same issues has been extremely rewarding. It’s rapidly become a very strong passion of mine, which is why I'm dedicated my Local Ideas Festival, Triton Alliance, to mentoring young students. – 2017 Scholar Eric Tran, is currently working on his Triton Alliance Local Ideas Festival with educator Chellyn Castro Boquiren in San Diego, California.
Go At Your Own Pace
During my senior year of college, I was anxiously considering a few potential paths for after graduation, eager to make the right first step that would position me well for my long-term goals. An important mentor (who, by that point, had kindly done MANY reference calls for me) perceptively pointed out that my career is not a race. Like many ambitious students, I’d always been fairly strategic about how the opportunities I pursued would help prepare me for my ultimate professional aspirations and, mostly subconsciously, I hoped to achieve those goals as quickly as possible.
This mentor’s advice helped me see that multiple opportunities could be the “right” opportunity and I didn’t need to rush to get through every stage of my career. My professional path might deviate and zigzag – due to finances, geography, relationships – and it might take me a few extra years to advance to a management-level position or earn a graduate degree, for example, and that would be okay. After the fast pace of four years of high school and four years of college, with their time-bound semesters and predetermined benchmarks, this mentor’s advice helped me be comfortable with the steady rhythm of adulthood and reassured me that whatever step I took after graduation would still move me forward in a positive direction. –2009 Scholar Sean Ashburn.
Do What Works for You
Listen to all of the advice and use what works for you. This piece of advice reminds me to be like a sponge and listen to everyone’s ideas. I’m not perfect and I never will be, but it simultaneously reminds me that I shouldn’t be pressured to take advice that just isn’t me. – 2012 Scholar Samantha Laney is currently working at the Theater UP Academy in Dorchester and attending the Charles Sposato School of Graduate Education.
Pay It Forward
The best advice that I received came from one of my mentors: “Pay it forward.” I was still a teenager at the time I did not know what “it” meant so I ended up going online to gain some context. My research brought me to Mimi Leder’s 2000 film Pay It Forward, a theatrical experience that helped frame my responsibility. I came to understand that “pay it forward” is the practice of passing on the knowledge, gifts, and resources people in my life had poured and invested in to me, on to the next generation.
Through experience, I’ve learned that being a good mentor means balancing time between talking and listening, teaching as well as learning, and having answers and asking questions. These relationships have taught me to develop patience, whether it means waiting for my mentee to work out a situation or waiting for the right time to give advice.
In reflecting upon my 2012 Local Ideas Festival, I would not be where I am today without multiple educators, mentors, stakeholders, and teammates. I also owe thanks to some Bezos Scholar alumni who served as role models and mentors from afar to me in 2012. To Jenny, Lucy, Nick, Molly, Sean, and Valerie, if you are reading this, I never told you before but thank you. It is from your examples that I continue to gain confidence. It is from all of the love, support, and realness that I receive that I continue to pay it forward. – 2012 Scholar Jeremiah Grant