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Journey to Becoming a Mentor

By: Yolanda Miranda

Yolanda Miranda, City Year LA AmeriCorps member

For the past two years I have been serving as an AmeriCorps member with City Year L.A.  This year I am serving the 4th grade class at 122nd Street Elementary School alongside my partner teacher. I have often been asked what the journey of an AmeriCorps member looks like. Each day brings new adventures and experiences for corps members, from reviewing student’s work to serving as a student advocate and helping them make sense of the world around them. My journey with City Year LA has motivated me to be the mentor that many of our students wouldn’t otherwise have.

My role wasn’t always that clear to me. When I began my first year, I was nervous about my role as a mentor, especially working with elementary students for the first time. Although we had plenty of training and guidance from our Program Manager, every time I spoke to my 4th grade students, I got nervous about saying the wrong thing and worried that they wouldn’t think I was a very good mentor. I think I was trying too hard for the students to see me as a perfect mentor.

After a few weeks of doubting myself, I confided in a fellow team member, confessing that I didn’t really see myself as the mentor that I had envisioned. They really supported me and helped me see that a mentor is someone who is there for the students and who builds relationships with them. My colleague helped me see that I had already been doing what a good mentor is supposed to do — supporting my students in their academic journey and being a positive role model. I was trying so hard to be a “perfect mentor,” that I didn’t see that I was already one by showing up for my students every day and helping them grow academically and social emotionally.

Yolanda and her mentor Ms. Bruski, at Yolanda’s graduation.

The experience reminded me of my own personal mentors and how they supported me throughout my own academic journey. I remember how my 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Bruski, was always there for me and stuck up for me. Ms. Bruski would not just be there for me, but for the whole class. I remember she would tell us, “if you ever need someone to talk to, you can always come to my room at any time of the day.” She made a huge impact on me because I saw how much she believed in me, she believed that I could do whatever I set my mind to. She allowed me to challenge myself, to help me grow, and to stand up for others and myself. Now that the roles are reversed and I find myself at the front of the classroom helping students, I want to be the person my teacher was for the next generation of students.

I want students to know that they are not alone and that they always have someone they can rely on and relate to. I serve with City Year because I have seen students doubt their capabilities and I would like to help them prove themselves wrong and reach their academic goals. There is still a lot that I can learn, but to my students I promise that I am going to give it my all and always be there for them.

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