by Isaac Tercero, Mentor, Volunteer Coach, and Tutor
January is National Mentoring Month and we want to thank our dedicated mentors for all they do to empower our youth. Having a mentor is invaluable for young people; it offers numerous benefits such as healthier life choices, stronger relationships with family, teacher, and peers, and increased high school graduation rates. Below, our mentor Isaac Tercero talks about what mentoring means to him and what he hopes to instill in his mentee, Angela.
Why did you choose to mentor a Row New Yorker?
I chose to be a mentor in order to continue being a positive and influential force in the lives of the teenagers I care for. Before the mentorship program began, I was volunteering as a tutor and a coach for the Manhattan program. The awe about volunteering for an organization like Row New York is that the more time you spend with the kids, the more they begin to influence your own life and perception. The transformation is slow but those kids become your friends and your siblings, and in turn, you take on those roles for them. Do you remember how our Teachers left lasting impressions on us? Sadly, not all of us are blessed with great teachers. I had some but many of mine became obstacles to overcome and were detrimental to my self-esteem. For example, I’ve had teachers tell me that I would never succeed in life, coaches who would just give up on me, and adults who would never share any words of encouragement or offer congratulatory words when I accomplished something. I remember my mistreatment, so when I’m with these kids I strive to be that overly-friendly, inspiring, loving, and supportive “mentor” that I wish that I had while growing up. I can’t protect every child from the harshness that life doles out, but at least I can give all of them memories of someone who always believed in their capabilities, encouraged them to push past their own limits, and never gave up on them no matter what. I may be that coffee-loving cheesy mentor, but I can see in their eyes, and in our conversations that they care about me and I care about them.
Did you/do you have a mentor? How does that help you in your personal and/or professional life?
I never had any mentors in any official capacity. Just my family and friends, offering all of their love, encouragement, and support. I may hold the title of mentor, coach, or tutor at times, but I like to think of myself as their older brother. I do not accept any of their negative mindsets, and I consistently encourage them to re-focus their efforts and never give up. I share funny stories with them, important life lessons and experiences, and I always give them the opportunity to share anything they want with me.
What are some things you hope your mentee learns from this experience?
The emotional support and talks about college will remain the same with each mentee, but since the needs of every mentee differ, I adapt my approach. This year I am blessed with a self-motivated rock-star and genius! I’m so very proud of her, and if anything I need to slow her down a bit because she wants to do too much at the same time, and then feels discouraged when she doesn’t complete everything. In many ways her mentoring is easy, I’m going to continue to help her to brainstorm and narrow down her search for the right college. Outside of college prep, I will continue to help her manage her own feelings and any anxiety that may arise. So far I’ve heard a lot of progress through her feedback. She’s a quick learner and absorbs all the lessons you may have for her. Like me, she’s also had her obstacles so I want to ensure that I strengthen her resolve and instill in her a healthy and happy outlook.
What are some things you learned from your mentee?
I’ve known my current mentee for close to two and a half years now, and I love her like a sister. She is an amazing individual who is a dominating and loving force in life. I feel like Batman mentoring Supergirl! I’m intelligent, ambitious, wise, and I have an iron will. But the potential and strength I see in her are unbelievable. She’s a much better student than I was and she has all the same qualities. I hope to have daughters like her one day!
Which is your favorite place to go with them or where do you hope to visit in the future?
I definitely want to take her to the Natural Museum of Science eventually. Since she has an inquisitive nature and wants to know about everything. Normally we just eat, walk, and talk. We have so much in common and we’re good friends, so we just spend hours talking. She fills me in on what has been happening in her life, family, friends, school, and rowing. I give her updates on my current projects. She asks for my opinions on the current obstacles she is dealing with. She tells me about the goals she is working towards, I advise her on to obtain those goals while considering other perspectives, and the conversation keeps going and going. It’s very fun and I like answering her questions because it forces me to think more deeply about certain issues.