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.
Rick Schumacher | Q&A
Rick Schumacher currently mentors two students, a third grader and a seventh grader, who Rick has worked with since he was in the first grade. Rick has mentored with Austin Partners in Education for 10 years.
Q: What made you interested in volunteering as a mentor?
A: Several factors lead me to mentoring. I guess the first thing is that my sister-in-law is the counselor at Highland Park. She told me about the program and asked if I might be interested. The more underlying reason is that, as a kid, I greatly benefited from having a mentor myself. This is my opportunity to pass it on.
Q: How has your experience as a mentor been so far? How has it changed over the years?
A: My experience has always been positive. I have had kids for only a year and have had one of my current kids for most of his academic life. Both scenarios have interesting benefits and challenges. I think my experience has been very positive. More importantly, I feel, I hope, that no matter how long I have the opportunity to mentor a kid, they take away a positive experience, that someday they will remember back to our conversations and that remembrance might have a positive impact on them.
Q: What do you like about mentoring – what keeps you coming back year after year?
A: I love being able to interact with these amazing young people. The kids I have had the opportunity to mentor come from significantly disadvantaged upbringings, either economically or familial. The grit that the exhibit gives me great hope that they can succeed and that is why I keep coming back.
Q: Why have you chosen to work with the same mentee year after year?
A: I think the longer I get to spend with a mentee, the more I can be a positive influence. The reverse is also true. I get a great bit of satisfaction from watching these kids grow, to watch them face challenges and navigate themselves to positive outcomes. It is really something special.
Q: Do you have any favorite stories about your mentee that you could share?
A: I don’t think I would share any particular story. However, I will say that it is fascinating to watch their growth. I can remember the time that I helped teach my current middle-school mentee to tie his first pair of lace-up shoes. We now play chess together in the library and talk about things like the most impactful classes he will take in high school. I had the same experiences with my own kids, but mentoring has a different dynamic. It is like watching a series of still images where you can remember different moments separately.
Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on your mentee?
A: I really hope that, no matter what life hurls at my mentees in the years to come, they will remember that someone has cared about their well-being. I hope that this recollection will help them to make decisions based on their self-worth.
Q: Why should someone volunteer as a mentor?
A: Deciding to mentor is a personal decision. It might not take a lot of time, only an hour a week, but the impact [of mentoring] can last a lifetime. I think it is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life and think that, if someone’s heart is in the right place, they can have a similar experience.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.