Monthly Archives: April 2010

Interview with a former mentee – Ashley Morse

Interview with Ashley Morse, 21 years old – Former mentee of icouldbe.org

We sat down with Ashley Morse, who participated in the icouldbe program during her high school career. She went to Highlands High School’s Business Academy in California, and now is about to graduate from Sacramento City College with a junior college degree in social work.

Ashley thanks icouldbe.org for giving her the motivation to think beyond high school and towards her future. She is now applying to schools such as SUNY Plattsburgh and UC Davis in anticipation of a four-year degree. She also plans on becoming a mentor for icouldbe soon.

We asked Ashley a few questions about her experience with icouldbe and her goals for the future.

ICB: How many years did you participate in icouldbe?

Ashley: Three years – tenth grade, eleventh grade, and senior year of high school.

ICB: What is your mentor-mentee relationship like (with Celie)?

Ashley: I haven’t seen Celie since my senior year, but we keep contact through email. She recently sent me a book called Love Leadership. It’s about a man who grew up during the LA riots and how he went from living in poverty to working for an antipoverty organization. We check in with each other every few months, it’s kind of like a nervous tick for me – if I don’t send her an email seeing how she’s doing, I feel on edge.

Throughout the icouldbe mentee-mentor program, our relationship started off as the typical relationship, but it started to change as I got older and life began to get a little bit more complicated. I turned to her because I didn’t feel embarrassed, and thought that she wouldn’t judge me the same way my teachers and peers would. My mindset was, “Oh well, I’m not going to see this person, so what do I have to be embarrassed about?” Obviously that changed – but meeting her only made our relationship stronger. The mentor doesn’t just become a screen name on the computer; she became a real person to me. Someone who has lived life has given me guidance on my life. Meeting her made me comfortable and I was able to confide in her with all types of situations throughout my life, whether it was just telling her about school or if it was a personal problem. For her to be there for me, even if it is just through email, really means a lot, especially given my past experiences with family. She gives me the consistency that I need, and I truly appreciate everything she does.

A mentor guides you through school, your life, your job, and your relationships… I’m getting 100% out of the program still… three years out of high school.

ICB: What part of the icouldbe curriculum did you find most helpful?

Ashley: The curriculum helped me think about the goals in my life; I never thought about the future beyond high school, and it encouraged me to think about where I would go and what I wanted to do. I also really appreciated the feedback I received from my mentor during my work in the units.

ICB: What would you like to do in the future?

Ashley: I am going to get my Master’s – no matter what. I want to work in social work, either with children or the elderly.

ICB: If you could give advice to students in the icouldbe program, what would it be?

Ashley: You only get out of the program what you put into it. It’s the same thing with life – if you give it your all then you’re going to see those results throughout your life. Life does not get any simpler after high school, it only gets complicated after graduation. If you can develop a relationship with your mentor the things in life that seem complicated will just be small events, because you’ll have someone to turn to.

As far as the program – students need to take advantage. It’s a great program to discover what you want to do in the future. The programs shouldn’t seem like work, if it does than you’re not using it to the best of your ability. If you think about the questions that are given, they can really tell you things about yourself; as well as the feedback from your mentors. They are taking the time out of their busy lives to give feedback to the mentees, so take the time to read what they are saying and comment back. I guarantee that responding back to your mentors will also make the program a lot more interesting.

Lastly enjoy the little things. Meaning enjoy the little things in the program and in life. If you enjoy the little things in life it will make life more enjoyable. We live too much in the here-and-now to worry about what our classmates think of us. If you have classmates that mock you for enjoying the program, ignore them. My classmates did the same thing to me and I ignored them and guess what life is still fine. I am who I am and you are who you are. Don’t let your peers or anyone get you down, because you are perfect just the way you are. Life is a journey so enjoy it we only live once so make the most of it.

ICB: Do you have a most memorable moment from your time spent in the icouldbe program?

Ashley: Definitely getting to meet my mentor Celie – she came to Sacramento, and I was able to shadow her for a day.

Story from a mentor – A rewarding and enlightening experience

Enjoy this account from a dedicated icouldbe mentor:

I suggest to many of my mentees that if they wish to ask questions or talk about challenges that have nothing to do with the structured material, I am available to provide insights in areas where they may be hesitant to talk with teachers and family. Some mentees take me up on this and a few have poured out their life to me. I have tried to be truthful and helpful within the guidelines I have set for myself as far as these exchanges are concerned.  I have found one of the best ways to establish a relationship is to tell the mentees about the kinds of problems I had when I was their age and how some of these problems were solved and how some of them were not.

I had one mentee in particular that I grew very close to. She was one of the brightest young minds I have had the pleasure of communicating with and not just in the icouldbe program. Unfortunately she has moved to a different part of the country and her school does not participate in icouldbe but she still goes online occasionally and communicates with me via your email program. I am not comfortable sharing the details of our many exchanges but I can say it was a rewarding and enlightening experience for me and hopefully I was of help and value to her–at least that is what she has told me.

-Art K.

Story from a mentor – Seeking Confidence

Here is another story from a long-time mentor at icouldbe:

Have I really been mentoring youths for the past six years? If you say so, it must be true. However, time really flies when you are having a good time. Where can I start about the kids who have crossed paths with me? I just can’t tell you about one. They are all like precious snowflakes or like stars in the sky—uniquely different and each with their own agenda.

The younger youths are sometimes more uncertain and seek confidence. They might pour out their hearts about problems relating to other kids. This age can be very frank about feeling excluded or left out, possibly because of their skin color or because they happen to be a certain ethnic group. This is the age that is still impressionable and you feel that any time spent mentoring such children is worth more than all the tea in China.

I remember the high school girl who loved to write stories. As she got to know me better, she sent more and more samples of her previously closely-guarded writing, which to my amazement was very creative, well-written, and action-packed. Inspiring such a prolific young writer was indeed a joy, especially since writing and editing is my niche also.

Probably the best times are when multiple students all at once become very involved with the curriculum. They are in constant communication, keeping me on my toes to respond to all their work. I love kids who are on a quest for knowledge—whose thirst to learn and find answers makes you feel so gratified to be a mentor.

Linda S

Story from a mentor – Progress and Motivation

The following is a story directly from one of icouldbe’s dedicated mentors:

I do my icouldbe.org volunteer work because I truly enjoy helping mentees. It warms my heart to know that I am able to positively impact a young person’s choices and life. This school year, I am fortunate to have had several exceptional mentees. However the incident that stands out in my memory the most is one mentee from last school year.

At first, he was very difficult to motivate, often was “fresh” with me, sometimes even rude. In the beginning, the quality of his work was not impressive. He tried to do minimum work required and do it as quickly as possible. He objected to my criticism and suggestions and was opposed to redoing any of his work when I asked him. Sometimes, I even sensed his anger through his words when I did not approve/pass some of his units and asked him to do more work. But slowly, I began seeing positive changes, very subtle at first, then more visible changes. He began trying harder and harder, became more polite and respectful of my feedback. He ended up being my most advanced mentee in terms of his progress. And to my huge surprise, he wrote me an e-mail last summer to say hello and to thank me. If this isn’t the ultimate prize for my volunteer work, I don’t know what is.

Just like our mentees need us, their mentors, to motivate and encourage them, we the mentors also need to be motivated to do this work. My special mentee provided such motivation to me.

Thank you for letting me share.

Eugenia R, Username: Eugenia

Ideas for thanking your volunteers

So, it’s National Volunteer Week – have you decided how to thank the volunteers in your life?

VolunteerMatch has a few great ideas – check out their blog to learn about how you can give a personalized gift to someone you want to thank.

You can also take a look at Energize, Inc. for some really inspiring stories about how people all over the country are thanking their volunteers.

We want to know – how are you celebrating Volunteer Week? Do you have anyone you’d like to thank? Has someone thanked YOU in a special way?

National Volunteer Week 2010 is here!

icouldbe.org has been patiently awaiting the arrival of National Volunteer Week all April… and we’re really excited it’s here!

Because of NVW and the 10th Anniversary of our organization, April is a really important month to us. Volunteer mentors are a major part of what icouldbe is made of – without them, we wouldn’t exist.

What’s really cool is hearing about how icouldbe impacts mentors – because the program can be a truly rewarding experience. All week on icouldbe’s Twitter feed, we will be posting quotes from our mentors who will share more about their experiences. Trust us – they’re worth reading!

And hey – if you are on Twitter, make sure to use these hashtags for National Volunteer Week: #VOLWK and #NVW10. There are lots of great stories and articles being posted, not to mention it’s the perfect place to connect with other volunteers (or volunteer-appreciators!)

Come back to the blog tomorrow for more on National Volunteer Week – and make sure to thank the volunteers in your life today!

The Value of Volunteering

In a report from the Independent Sector, the estimated dollar value of volunteer time for 2009 is $20.85 an hour. Though it’s difficult to compare donated time to a dollar amount, it does make you think about how much we should truly appreciate our volunteers – and what with National Volunteer Week right around the corner, it’s a great time to do so!

At icouldbe.org, mentors donated approximately 6,771 hours in 2009. With the estimated dollar value of volunteer time at $20.85 an hour… that means our mentors contributed $141,175.35 worth of time during 2009. That’s a really impressive number! We feel incredibly lucky to have such dedicated mentors who volunteer their time to help students who really need it. And one thing you can’t put a dollar value on – the change that these mentors have inspired into these students’ lives, and the doors they have helped them to open.

(Here’s a preview on 2010: we’ve already reached about 3,129 mentor hours donated this year – and it’s not even halfway over!)

Next week is National Volunteer Week – how are you planning on thanking the volunteers in your life? Stay tuned to our blog all next week, as well as icouldbe’s Facebook and Twitter, for daily ideas on honoring volunteers, stories from our mentors and more icouldbe news.