A Talbot Mentors Match—the 100th!

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TM Tina De’Angelis and Heidy Lopez-Cruz

2017 is an important year for Talbot Mentors. It is our 20th anniversary. Hundreds of Talbot County children have been matched with mentors in our 20 year history. Today is a special day. Today marks the most mentor/mentee pairs the organization has supported at one time – 100!

The meeting that will formalize a brand-new mentor/mentee match begins with an icebreaker—a way to get the group involved in something other than the sweet nervousness that comes with making new friends. At its core, the relationship between a mentor and a mentee is all about the trust, guidance, and care that characterize deep friendship.

Jazmine and Javana (Talbot Mentors staffers) get up from the table. Following suit are Tina (the new mentor), Heidy (the new second-grade mentee) and her mom and younger brother, and Jeremy (a seasoned mentor who has joined the group as translator). Heidy’s mom, Keilin, is from Central America and is just starting to learn English.

“Let’s play,” says Jazmine. “This is a little game about things that make you happy,” she continues before launching into a series of questions. There are no winners or losers. It is a chance to start to get to know one another.

“Which do you like better, dogs or cats?” Jazmine asks. The dog people are invited to stand on the left side of the room; the cat people, on the right. It’s dogs, unanimously. “Beaches or amusement parks?”  Only Javana opts for beaches. “Pizza or burgers”? All votes go for pizza—no, wait a second, Jeremy has walked to the burger side of the room. Heidy giggles. Before long, the ice is broken and everyone sits back down, still discussing likes. “Dancing” for Tina and Keilin; “playing Legos more than watching TV” for Heidy.

The laughter grows warmer.

“Now can I talk to Heidy?” Tina asks. Her cut-to-the-chase exuberance can be construed as a harbinger of things to come. Heidy will surely benefit from the “let’s get the ball rolling” spirit of a woman who clearly loves children and can’t wait to get started.  But she’s going to have to be patient for 15 minutes more.

“Today is April 3, 2017, says Javana. “It’s an important date—for you and, in a very exciting way, for Talbot Mentors,” she says, making eye contact with everyone seated at the table. “This will be your anniversary date.” Tina and Heidy look at each other.  Javana goes on to explain that mentor, mentee, and mentee’s mom will get together and celebrate in exactly one year. They will take stock on how things have gone for Tina and Heidy; what have they most enjoyed doing? In fact, mentors and mentees usually agree that “just being together” is what matters most. What are their thoughts re year two?

The importance of April 3, 2017, for the organization? “This is the 100th Talbot Mentors match,” Javana offers with a smile that could light darkness. History in the making! Murmurs around the room. This milestone match brings together a woman who grew up in the slums of Sao Paulo, came to the U.S. when she was 14, and went on to be a successful Eastern Shore real estate broker with a reserved seven-year-old child whose eyes flash brightness and whose conversation shuttles easily between Spanish and English. Tina is fluent in Spanish, which will go a long way to keeping Heidy’s mom in the loop.

Exchanged between Tina and Keilin are 3×5 cards with contact information. Logistical glue.

Next comes the match agreement—a one-pager that spells out expectations and commitments. Jazmine reads, “The mentoring relationship is a partnership between the mentee, mentor, mentee’s parent/caregiver, and Talbot Mentors, in a commitment to meet for 1-2 hours a week for a year. We ask that all members commit to working through challenges and agree to responsibilities outlined below.” Jeremy translates.

Communication—among all parties—tops the contract list. Making dates. Keeping dates. Sharing information on Talbot Mentors special events. Reporting pressing challenges. The document and a pen are passed around. Signers are Javana, Heidy, Tina, and Keilin. It is a declaration of interdependence that sets the stage for success.

Everyone’s schedule is tight, but the group quickly lands on a regular Sunday afternoon meeting time for Tina and Heidy. “School’s out June 9,” says Tina. “I hope we can meet more than once a month during the summer.”

Nods of agreement. Applause all around. A journey has begun. Tina and Keilin hug. And then the proud new mentor walks over to Heidy, who, in no time flat, is on Tina’s lap.

Smiles are wide. Horizons too. What a match!

There are many more children in Talbot County that need mentors. We are in immediate need of twenty new mentors. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, or know of somebody who would make a great mentor contact Natalie Costanzo today on natalie@talbotmentors.org or 410 770 5999.

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