Featured Mentor: Esha Bawa

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. We recently sat down with a long-time mentor, Esha Bawa, to discuss her experience working with her mentee, Shakira.

iMentor: What drew you to volunteering for iMentor, and what was your first impression of Shakira?
Esha: As an NYC transplant, I felt it was very important to get involved within the community that had given me so much. I also wanted to build my network both professional and personal, but I wanted to do that in a way that felt meaningful. iMentor and specifically BOSS (Business of Sports School, where I mentored for the last four years) was the perfect combination of my passions in education and entrepreneurship.

When I met Shakira, she was so quiet (not the case)! We started chatting, and she started pointing out our differences. I was definitely caught off guard – even a little shocked! She meant it nothing more than observations, but I remember thinking, “Esha, just listen.” That process of listening to her instead of trying to defend our differences has made me think of diversity differently. It was a small lesson - embracing diversity is about celebrating what makes us unique rather than trying to constantly focus on what unites us. She also made me a better listener.

iMentor: How did you feel when you first met Shakira?
Esha: Shakira was so easy to talk to from the first time I met her. Once I passed her five minutes of being shy, it was obvious that she is intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, and honest – brutally so.

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 time?
Esha: Entering our fourth year, Shakira had a personal situation arise. I remember noticing a change in her the moment I walked in so I talked to her about it. When Shakira shared her update and I gave her a little advice, she told me that I was like a sister to her. That meant so much to me.

iMentor: I can imagine the growth you’ve seen in your mentee as they developed through high school, but what about yourself? Were there any benefits to you personally that you didn’t expect when you became a mentor?
Esha: A lot of the conversations we’ve had are around goal setting. Over the years, we’ve both seen each other achieve our aims, and she has pushed me as much as I pushed her. When I was getting lazy, there were points where I said to myself “You have to see Shakira in a few weeks. Have you made progress towards your goals?” I knew she would ask me for the latest update, and I wanted to be answerable.

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?
Esha: Don’t think about four years – it’ll fly by in the blink of an eye. What’s more amazing is that I’ve made a friend for a lifetime. Beyond volunteering, I have also been able to get involved in iMentor’s Young Executive Board – a great opportunity for professional networking and for helping shape the future of a non-profit.

iMentor: And finally, if Shakira is reading, what would you say to her about your journey together?
Esha: I’m so proud of you – but you already knew that.

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