BROmentum Featured Mentor: Rick Freudenberger

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 highlight many of our volunteer mentors, sharing their perspectives on mentorship and the effect it has had on both them and their mentees. Did you know, in the US, women are 150% more likely to volunteer than men? That's why here at iMentor we are building BROmentum by recruiting more men to be great mentors to our students. We sat down with a first-year mentor, Rick Freudenberger, to discuss his experience working with his mentee, Izaya.

iMentor: What drew you to volunteering for iMentor, and what was your first impression of Izaya?
Rick Freudenberger: I have done some informal mentoring and also did a short-lived mentoring program at KIPP High School in San Jose. I have always felt that it is important whenever possible to work to create value for everyone you come in contact with. Mentoring provides a concentrated forum for me to attempt to create value for young people. My first impression was that Izaya is a very intelligent, soft spoken, worldly young man with a very kind nature.

iMentor: How did you feel when you first met him?
Rick: I felt very motivated to provide Izaya with whatever benefits I could provide that have resulted from my life experiences… especially since I’m an old guy of 69. I wanted to ensure that Izaya was able to see all the opportunities available to him to grow, learn, and achieve his full potential.

iMentor: iMentor matches pairs who will be matched for a long time – at 3 to 4 years, it’s not your typical weekend volunteer opportunity. How would you describe how your relationship evolved over this first year?
Rick: I feel like we established a strong bond. I think we developed a rapport where we each listened intently to what we each had to share with one another. I have tried to focus on asking Izaya questions to bring out his hopes, desires, concerns, and solutions for his future. His answers have led to us to explore what options and decisions he will face as he shapes his future.

iMentor: We can imagine the growth you’ve seen in your mentee as he develops through high school, but what about yourself? Were there any benefits to you personally that you didn’t expect when you became a mentor?
Rick: In speaking with young people like Izaya, I always learn something new about how they are approaching life in a world that is completely different from the one I experienced at their age. I have learned to be open to new ways of thinking, behaving, and learning about how young people approach life. I feel this helps me understand better how I can be of help to them in shaping their habits, behaviors, and opportunities for their future.

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?
Rick: I think the key is flexibility in the approach you take with a mentee. You may enter such relationships with a preconceived notion of what you would like to focus on and impart to them, and then realize that the mentee’s situation doesn’t fit those notions you came in with. So make sure you come into a mentee relationship with a “clean slate” and not a rigid agenda or approach for what YOU think is best for the mentee. You may find another path you didn’t think of will be the best approach.

iMentor: And finally, if Izaya is reading, what would you say to him about your journey together?
Rick: I would say achieving success and happiness in life is not easy… achieving absolute happiness requires hard work, and this process of hard work teaches you life lessons, habits, brings good and bad experiences to learn from. It makes the journey of life fulfilling, rewarding. Life is about value creation for yourself and this ideally translates into creating value for others. It is what we are here for as humans, to interact in value creation for mankind and creating this value begins with you… doing your best through the development of knowledge, kindness, respect, and empathy from and for everyone who crosses your path.

Interested in becoming a mentor? Register now for an upcoming Mentor Orientation in NYC, Chicago, or the Bay Area!