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Mentoring plays a crucial role in the lives of young people, helping them make decisions and providing connections that lead to future opportunity. January is National Mentoring Month, and The National Mentoring Partnership is highlighting the stories of mentors online using #MentorsIRL. At Austin Partners in Education, we see firsthand every day the positive impact mentors can have in the lives of students. To wrap up the month, we will be featuring just a few of our many wonderful mentors on our blog and social media. We’re grateful to all of our mentors who show up each week throughout the school year! You can share your own mentoring experiences with us using the hashtags #APIEShowsUp, #MentorsIRL, and #MentoringMonth.

Sam Dowd | Q&A

Sam Dowd has mentored with Austin Partners in Education for two years and currently mentors a 16-year-old student.

Q: What made you interested in volunteering as a mentor?

A: I got to know Wendi Gordon [APIE’s Development Director] personally, and after hearing more about her work with APIE I knew I wanted to get involved. My wife and I were both fortunate to grow up in households that value education, and we know those experiences were instrumental in helping shape us as adults. In that spirit, I wanted to have an opportunity to invest in young people and help equip them with resources that they may need to move their education forward.

Q: How has your experience as a mentor been so far? How has it changed over the years?

A: My experience as a mentor has been amazing so far. Initially, my student and I took a little bit of time to get to know each other, but once we built some rapport and established a consistent schedule we were able to enjoy some more experiences together. It helps that he is extremely involved with his school. My wife and I have been able to support him at soccer games and guitar recitals. It’s been a blast getting to support him at his various events!

Q: What do you like about mentoring – what keeps you coming back year after year?

A: Advocating for my student and being a source of encouragement has been fulfilling as I can remember how tough high school was at times. Being able to celebrate his accomplishments and remind him that his hard work has helped create some tremendous opportunities has been impactful as well. I love being able to affirm his intellect and his work ethic, and I can see his confidence grow with every season!

Q: Why have you chosen to work with the same mentee year after year?

A: Because he’s awesome and he hasn’t fired me yet!

Q: Do you have any favorite stories about your mentee that you could share?

A: My wife and I supported my student during one of his guitar recitals when his parents couldn’t make it, and I remember how happy he looked when he saw us after his performance. It was so fun to be able to tell him how well he did and how proud we were of his hard work!

Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on your mentee?

A: I hope he can appreciate my encouragement as well as feedback during this season of his life. Through all of our interactions I try to simultaneously challenge and validate him in his academic and extracurricular activities. I always try to remind him that this is a challenging and busy season in his life, but he has these responsibilities and expectations because he is so incredibly bright.

Q: Why should someone volunteer as a mentor?

A: Volunteering through APIE is an incredible gift. I cannot think of another organization that works so tirelessly to support the students of AISD. When you invest in APIE you have an opportunity to impact a young person’s life in a profound way. Sometimes, young people need to be reminded that their educational opportunities matter, and mentorship is the perfect vehicle for that.

Interested in learning more about how to become a mentor? Visit our website at www.austinpartners.org/getinvolved or email our volunteer recruitment coordinator Ashley at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

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