The Abramson mentors help our Scholars make the most of their academic and other opportunities, and they are the vital feature distinguishing the Abramson Foundation from other scholarship organizations that provide financial aid but no other forms of support. The mentoring relationship, however, is not a one-way street with one person on the “giving” end and another on the “getting” end; it’s much more complex. The benefits often run in both directions. Our mentors find satisfaction in being part of the Abramson community and working with other people motivated by the same spirit of “giving back.” The Scholars and mentors constitute multiple layers of support, with younger participants building on the experience and guidance of those more senior to them.
Walter McEwen, who is on the Board and is also a mentor, says that he gets joy out of his different roles at Abramson. He revels in doing something worthwhile and doing it effectively, while working and cooperating with a great group of people. Other mentors at Abramson also derive enormous satisfaction out of their Abramson relationships. Some of them have shared their thoughts here about their mentoring experience.
As a young man, Judge Roberts, a federal district court judge, benefited from the personal attention and guidance of Fred Abramson, who inspired the creation of the Abramson Foundation. Through that experience, he came to appreciate how small efforts can make big contributions to the lives of others. Now, through his mentoring, he seeks to carry on that commitment. He wants to provide his mentees with sound advice, practical planning skills, a sounding board and a human example of what is possible. He finds it satisfying to see young people succeed and exceed other people’s expectations. One of his greatest pleasures as a mentor has been to steer a mentee towards a career opportunity and then to watch him blast off. Judge Roberts regrets that “you can never give as much as you would like to.” Like many others, Judge Roberts is a big fan of Aaron Jenkins, a former Abramson Scholar who is now Chair of Mentoring. He writes: “If Abramson can produce a phenom like Aaron Jenkins, let me join to produce more like him!”
James Yarborough, a former Abramson Scholar, believes that he would not have been able to navigate college and the professional realm successfully without his mentors at the Abramson Foundation, who included Aaron Jenkins, James McClelland (former Scholar and current Treasurer) and Richard Hanks (Co-Chair of Development). He had a wonderful experience as a mentee and wants to pass that along. “Being able to help someone…in a similar situation as myself is an amazing experience!”
James McClelland, James Yarborough’s former mentor, was inspired by his own experience as an Abramson Scholar to re-connect with the organization as both a mentor and as a member of the Board. His own mentor, Greshaun Fulgham, went above the call of duty to make sure he had everything he needed. Now he hopes to provide guidance and encouragement and to be either “a voice or an ear” depending on what his mentee might need at a particular moment. James was particularly pleased to provide Nico, one of his mentees, with a life-time first experience: James’ was the first wedding that Nico had ever attended. James wants to be a positive role model for both of his mentees and to help them be the best people they can be.
Veronica Root has benefited from a great deal of mentoring and assistance as she has navigated school and career, and she joined Abramson because she could see how it gave its Scholars a leg up in college. She tries to provide her mentee with advice and support and finds reward for her efforts in watching her mentee succeed.
Carrie Ellis has also been inspired by her own mentors. They have played a significant role in her professional growth. And she now wants to offer whatever guidance she can to young emerging leaders. Of her experience at Abramson, she writes, “It has been fantastic to watch my mentees mature over the years, and I take great pride when advice that I have offered them helps them or enhances the experiences they are having.”
Sakeenah Hakim was involved in many academic and athletic programs when she was younger, but none of them offered mentoring. Fortunately, her school counselor and older brother were available to guide her. Now she is passionate about working with young adults. She hopes to give her mentee confidence, insights on navigating college and life, and a long-lasting and trusting relationship. She values all of her time with her mentee, whether it is a five-minute phone conversation, an hour-long phone marathon, or a brief email exchange. But she most enjoys the times when they get to see each other in person. While she finds it fulfilling to see their relationship positively affect her mentee, she may get even more out of it. She loves to help others and has discovered that “mentoring is part of what makes me complete.”
It is hard to think of a more compelling endorsement of the mentoring experience than that! Abramson mentors do give back by lending a helping hand and useful guidance to their mentees. But they get something too – the enormous satisfaction of watching hard-working, deserving youth evolve into productive and successful young adults – who will, in time, serve as mentors and role models for others.