Sometime after registration was complete and I had attended a Mentor’s official training, I got a mail saying your mentee has been assigned and you can start meeting him from next week. This wasn’t something I did before. In fact, I did not know much about what I was supposed to do. Few instructions were provided as part of one hour training by the ISD (Independent School District) administrative office and the only message I got was “Listen, Listen and Listen”.
Idea was to do my bit to help this kid for whatever challenge he might have in his life, but also to see closely the life in an American High School since my elder daughter has made her transition from Indian school to an American High School this year.
As part of Ullas trust I had done few workshops in Malad’s Municipal schools earlier and the satisfaction was immeasurable. But then the challenge was different this time. Talking about John Smith (Name has been changed for privacy measures), is a very soft-spoken, quite guy, very contrary to most of the American kids. He was struggling a bit through his 10th grade and seemed to have had a mentor right from his middle school.
Right during my first meeting, I tried listening to him attentively to understand how I can really be of any help. He did take little time to open up, but the problem was quite typical. Being brought up by a single father along with few financial issues, John would miss his Mom, who had left him long ago. John did want to change things for better and do good in school. But then the kind of distractions, would not let him be consistent.
Part of my job was to make him realize, how lucky he was to be part of one of the best schools in Texas and also having some of those bright kids around him. And yes, that was so true, most of the Westwood kids would not only excel in academics, but made the school proud in myriad other activities. Sometimes I would tell him stories of kids in the developing nations, who would not have two times bread to eat and somehow survival was the only goal.
I would at times feel helpless and feel angry, thinking why can’t he get that passionate or that motivated. And then I realized one thing, few things come from the pinch, unless you feel the heat, you won’t get it.
Those kids in Municipal schools in Malad, also had issues like being brought up by single mother. But then their mother was doing a real day’s hard work probably as a maid servant. She would save all her money to be able to send her kid to better college once they complete their school and sleep empty stomach. The Ullas scholarship, which was still not a big money for them, served a lot and gave them some support.
In case of John, his father was busy with his own education. John was scared to move to a new home, his father’s girlfriend’s home, where he might have been forced to adjust with his new step brothers and sisters. With so many arbitrary factors, none amongst them being any encouraging and with a numerous other distraction, how would John be able to derive any motivation. This is where the ISD (Independent School District) and few other volunteering organizations played a huge part in helping these kids and creating an alternate support system for them.
One of the wonderful things that happened through this engagement was to meet Mr. Alan Hildebrand, The Assistant Principal and Co-ordinator for Mentor program in Westwood. Sometimes I would send a last-minute cancellation mail to him and he would acknowledge it with utmost patience. I don’t know, if I really made any difference, but he was kind enough to nominate me for the appreciation award.
On our last meeting John did ask whether I can continue mentoring him next year as well. I did feel good about it. With the office work getting little more hectic, I am not very sure about that, but all those fortnightly meetings this year, were a great learning. Well it doesn’t matter where you are born, there are always challenges, they just take different forms.