January is National Mentoring month, the largest-scale mentoring awareness campaign nationwide. January also has been proclaimed mentoring month by the Talbot County Council. Last year, Talbot Mentors was awarded the 2019 Nonprofit Community Impact award by the Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and was named the 2019 Maryland Mentoring Program of the Year by the National Mentoring Partnership.
“The recognition we received in 2019 is both humbling and inspiring. This year we challenged ourselves to dive deeper into the art and the science of mentoring our young people,” says Gerson Martinez, Executive Director of Talbot Mentors.
At the heart of Talbot Mentors are the relationships between mentors and mentees—one-on-one relationships that add immeasurably to the lives of kids in Talbot County. Though that is the common denominator, every “match” has a life of its own.
It is Saturday morning and Sacoya, my mentee, is at my house. She immediately goes to the treat tin to get a biscuit for Runner, a black Lab she loves. Then she puts a pan on the stove and goes to the fridge to get two eggs and the butter dish. Cracking the eggs as well as any chef can—and certainly better than I can—she makes fried eggs by herself. It is gratifying to see her pleasure in this accomplishment.
Sacoya is 13. I have been her mentor since she was 8. Among other things, over the years we have gone to movies, bowled and ice skated together, spent time at the Idlewild Park playground, ridden the ferry to Oxford and back, and seen the Nutcracker at Kennedy Center. This year she said she didn’t want to see the ballet. I think that is because she sees the Nutcracker as something for younger girls. Sacoya loves visiting Talbot Humane to play with the dogs and cats. She hopes to become a veterinarian.
“We understand that kids evolve. Their needs change as they grow,” says Gerson, who shares that in 2019, “All six of Talbot Mentors’ high- school seniors graduated and are enrolled in college.” In fact, for the past three school years, 100% of actively-matched high-school seniors in the program have graduated high school.
Santos Noé Garcia Martinez has been mentoring for a year and a half. “My mentee Rudi and I were initially awkward around each other,” says Santos. “He is a timid kid, and I was a stranger. We became friends through our love of corny jokes and puns. He learned to trust me, and he occasionally opens up to me about things that are going on in his life. It is rather fulfilling to feel that I’m making a positive difference.” Santos and Rudi love the Air and Space museum and reading to each other. “Mentoring is easier than you might think,” he adds. “You just have to take the time to let the relationship grow.”
Talbot Mentors staffers expertly help mentors along the way. One way they support mentors along their journey is through regular “Chat and Chew” sessions for mentors, who receive guidance from each other as they eat sandwiches and share their successes and challenges. Occasionally there are guest attendees, such as child psychologists, school practitioners, and professionals in the medical community.
The purpose of mentoring, Gerson explains, is to “walk alongside a young person and help them to recognize the amazing capacity within themselves.” Mentors are reliable constants, he points out. Traditionally, mentors and mentees get together for about two to three hours a week.
“Jesse and I became friends the moment we met,” says Emily Marvel. That was almost three years ago. They love attending community events, like Multicultural Day, but they have their best times just hanging around “and being goofy,” she adds.
“I jointed Talbot Mentors because I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life,” Emily continues, “but honestly my mentee has made perhaps made more of a difference in my life. Jesse takes time out to be nice to other kids. She is talented, kind, and funny. I became a mentor to be a role model, but she is my role model when life gets me down.”
Emily’s advice to new mentors: “Be open without expectations. Children are beautiful creatures with so much to offer.”’
Mentor Tripper Showell has been with his mentee for 7 years, enjoying such activities as “fishing, woodworking, landscaping, and crabbing,” he shares. He has taken advantage of the training and activities that Talbot Mentors provides. “You don’t have to go it alone,” he says.
“Diego is my third mentee,” says Jim Reed. “Each match has been unique, and I have gotten so many ‘gifts’ from each relationship. I so appreciate the friendships that have developed.”
Only 7 months into the mentoring experience, Daniel Stricklin and his mentee have rock climbed, fished, bowled, and played board games together. Daniel says, “My advice to anyone beginning the journey is to enjoy the time you get to spend with your mentee. Have fun and remember that you can make a huge difference.”
To help potential mentors gain an understanding of just what is involved, Talbot Mentors holds information sessions the second Wednesday of every month. Next up is February 12th, 4:30 to 5:15, at TM headquarters: 108 Maryland Avenue, off Aurora. You don’t have to sign up in advance; just show up!
“Thanks to dedicated mentor volunteers, our mentees get support beyond what they receive at home and in school,” Gerson says. It all begins with matching mentor to mentee. Later this month, Talbot Mentors will present a seminar on Talbot Mentors’ proprietary matching procedures at the National Mentoring Summit in Washington, DC. The summit is the annual conference of the mentoring industry nationwide, and is attended by 1,500 mentoring organizations. “It is a privilege to address these like-minded professionals about our matching process,” Gerson adds.
Matched with a mentee for just four months, Deany Blades and her mentee hit the ground running. “We became comfortable talking with each other within our first afternoon together, looking at art at the Academy Art Museum.” Since then, they have been back to the museum. “Sierra articulates fresh and insightful thoughts on her interpretations of the art,” she adds. The two also like to walk and talk.
“A gift I have gotten from my mentee is a refreshing, unjaded view on a wide variety of topics, and I get to share her joy and energy.”
With each passing day, Talbot Mentors is expanding its reach and changing the lives of mentees—and mentors.
To learn more about becoming a mentor or to make a donation to Talbot Mentors, visit www.talbotmentors.org. You may also contact the office by phone at 410-770-5999 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.