iMentor’s community is one of a kind, with a wealth of thoughtful volunteers committed to making a positive impact in our students’ lives. In honor of their dedication we want to highlight many of our volunteer mentors, sharing their perspectives on mentorship and the affect it has had on both them and their mentees. This month is BROtober at iMentor, as we are especially focused on recruiting more men to be great mentors in our current program year, so we sat down with a long-time mentor, Paul Diamond, to discuss his experience working with his mentee, Hamlet.
iMentor: What initially got you interested in being a mentor, and what was your first impression of your mentee?
Paul Diamond: Growing up as an only child I was fortunate enough to have a great mentor, my father. He had a positive influence on me. One of the many things he taught me was to have compassion for others. Giving is as good as receiving. Helping a family member or friend in need became very important to me. Raising four children to adulthood and retiring from my business career, I started doing volunteer work. After my retirement I wanted to devote a majority of my time to volunteering. What got me interested in being a mentor was from my first experience volunteering as a photography teacher and visiting with senior citizens living alone through an organization called Visiting Neighbors. A friend mentioned the iMentor program to me and I was very interested in getting more information to see if it was a good fit for me. After my first contact I knew that I had found the right place for myself. After meeting my mentee for the first time I felt we had made an immediate connection. Our relationship grew steadily over the three years and I believe we will have a long lasting relationship.
iMentor: We match pairs who will be matched for a long time – at three to four years, it’s not your typical weekend volunteer opportunity. How would you describe how your relationship evolved over time?
Paul: Fortunately, we shared many common interests. Meeting once a month and emailing once a week as well as attending some sporting events, going to his high school graduation, and meeting his family brought us closer in a very natural way.
iMentor: I can imagine the growth you’ve seen in your mentee as he developed through high school, but what about yourself? Were there any benefits to you personally that you didn’t expect when you become a mentor?
Paul: I was pleasantly surprised how much of an influence I actually was to my mentee. It felt so rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life. He also had an impact on my life, watching this young man tell his story and develop in such a positive way. It inspires me and I find I talk about it frequently with many of my friends.
iMentor: Among the largest cities in the US, New York City usually falls toward the bottom when it comes to volunteerism rates. Why do you think more New Yorkers don’t volunteer? What made you take on such a commitment to a mentee yourself?
Paul: People in New York are so busy trying to survive themselves that I think they are overwhelmed and don’t feel confident taking on volunteer commitments. While I was working I also couldn’t find time to volunteer; however, once I retired I felt I was ready to take it on.
iMentor: To any prospective mentors out there who don’t volunteer yet, what would you tell others about the volunteer experience that they might not know?
Paul: I realized that it really doesn’t take all that much time and the reward is much greater than the time and effort involved.
iMentor: And finally, if your mentee is reading, what would you say to him about your journey together?
Paul: I would say that his impact on me has been equal to, if not more than, mine on him. The friendship that has grown between us feels like it will last a lifetime. He has proven to me that he is an outstanding person and I am impressed with him and how he lives his life. He has been a joy to know and to help him grow.