A Role Model for the Community: Sarah’s Story

Sarah DeMarco is a mentor from iMentor NYC who became a volunteer in 2021. A graduate from Colgate University, she now works for an executive search firm. She found iMentor as she was searching for a sense of community and a way to give back. Sarah shares her story of how her college mentor served as a role model, the benefits of shared identity in a mentorship, and how she strives to pay it forward with her own mentee.

Did you have a mentor in your life with whom you shared an identity? What was your relationship like with them?

One person that comes to mind is someone who I played field hockey with in college. She immigrated from the Philippines when she was younger [and] also grew up in New Jersey. We both played on the same team, but she was a year older than me. Throughout college, and even to this day, she's always been this older sister figure; we've connected in a ton of ways through both of our identities, but also through school, career, jobs. Because she was a year ahead of me, it was nice to see her navigate finding a job after school and her success since then.

She was able to give a lot of advice and guidance. I definitely leaned on her a lot through school and even post-grad. I remember calling her last year [when] deciding what I should do next for my career; we are in different industries, but [I listened] to her [in] what she's done on her own.

Was there a particular piece of advice she gave that was pivotal for you?

We had a conversation last year [about] imposter syndrome, which is something that I experienced. I called to pick her brain in terms of what she's gone through with that. She's also someone that I've known for a long time, so [it helped] hearing her perspective on things – not just knowing me in a corporate or work sense, but knowing me outside of that – and giving the assurance that I'm still the person that I know myself to be, and taking that confidence into work.

What kind of impact can mentorship have in the AAPI community?

Watching [my mentor] do what she's done, and being able to use that as an actual role model in my life, but then also having the relationship with her and the connection where I can rely on her for resources and guidance is super important.

Having real world examples of people that have done successful things is always important, especially in your own community – making connections with those people and leaning on them. Returning the favor and being a mentor for other people is the second part.

Let’s talk about your mentee Maeva. What’s your relationship like with her?

Maeva is finishing up her freshman year of college at Mercy College in Manhattan. I've been with her since her junior year of high school – so cool to see her transformation from a high school student into figuring out freshman year of college! Right now, she's navigating if she wants to go into a pre-med track. [I’m] trying to be there as someone who can point [her] into the direction of, “Here's some websites you should look at. Here's an interesting article I read.” Encouraging her to reach out to her professors and other students at her community. Our relationship has shifted into [me] being there as a resource, but also encouraging her to really lean on her own curiosity about what she's passionate about [and] giving her tools to discover that on her own.

I admire [Maeva]; she has such a clear vision for what she wants to do, versus me, where I really had no idea what I wanted to do after college. It's a fun relationship, trying to show her other possibilities, while also making sure she leans into what she is passionate about.

Is there anything that you learned from your own mentor that you are trying to model for Maeva?

I think trying to find the intersection of things that you're passionate about, but things that you also feel like you're good at. Something that I learned from my mentor was paying attention to things like, I love talking on the phone, or I want to work in a team setting – and then [finding] the crossover for things that I'm also really passionate about.

That's what I'm trying to do with Maeva, too – showing her [that] even if this track doesn't work out, paying attention to things that you do like in the experiences that you have, whether it's working in a certain environment or a certain industry.

What would you say to encourage more BIPOC people to become mentors for their community?

It's definitely a rewarding relationship. It's not just a one-way street of the mentee benefiting from the mentor; there's a lot to be learned on both sides. If you get the chance to be a role model for your community, just [think] about the implications that has on other people following behind you.

We need more mentors like Sarah to guide students through high school and into college! Sign up to be a mentor today: https://imentor.org/get-involved/become-a-mentor