Written by: Kim Hicks, Lead Clerk in Power Delivery
I was given an opportunity through Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) to participate in a mentoring program called IPL Power Pals. The program worked with Riverside Elementary--a school within Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) district. The program matched each volunteer with a Riverside student in grades 4-6. The student I was matched with was a fourth grader.
She* seemed shy at first, but she always had a great attitude, was eager to learn, and she always gave 100 percent effort regardless of the task. We met twice per month during her lunch period at Riverside. I looked forward to each session, and I believe she did also as she always greeted me with a big smile. As time passed, I noticed she opened up more in our discussions, and her confidence seemed to rise, too.
The main focus of our discussions consisted of character building, role models, and career exploration. It was challenging at times to keep a fourth grader focused. This was especially true when we were in a group setting when she wasn't as comfortable with me in the beginning. At times, our discussions were slightly derailed with talks of sports (she plays soccer and volleyball), birthday parties, and sleepovers with friends. I felt these types of discussions were also important, and it seemed to bring her out of her shell a little more. I was extremely happy to witness her continually gaining more confidence.
Eventually, we would get back on track with our discussions. I learned she aspires to pursue a career in nursing. I expressed to her that I felt this was a good career choice for her as she was a very kind and caring person. She then shared with me why she had interest in this field; she is a cancer survivor. She explained that with her illness, she had spent a lot of time in hospitals and received excellent care. She wants to be a nurse so that she can care for others with the same kindness that she received as a patient.
This response from a fourth grader was astonishing to me. My own memories of fourth grade consist mostly of playing kickball at recess and riding my bike after school. She, on the other hand, is thinking about taking care of others the way she was cared for.
After much thought, I had to ask myself, "Am I mentoring her, or is she mentoring me?"
I went into this volunteer program to give to someone else. As it turns out, I feel like I received much more. I can only hope that the time I spent with her has an equally positive impact on her life as it did on mine. This was by far the most rewarding volunteer experience of my life.
*Name of mentee has been withheld from this entry to protect the confidentiality of the student and her family