Anisa & Alondra

This blog was originally published by Pearson. We are reposting it here with their permission.

A Mentor Walks Along a Shy, Young Woman Through High School, Learning English, College Applications, and a Successful First Year in College

A Transformation

When Anisa Alhilali met a young high school freshman in the Bronx for the first time to begin a mentoring relationship, Alondra was painfully shy and struggling to understand English.

Five years later, that student is now a freshman at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn—and earning all A’s and one B after her first semester.

“She’s flourishing,” Anisa says.

Lessons for Life

Anisa works in procurement for Pearson.

She’d hoped to be a mentor to a local student through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, but she was put on a waiting list because the program was so popular.

Anisa then stumbled on a similar program, iMentor, which connects students with mentors across the country.

“I was impressed because it wasn’t just social activities,” Anisa says. “It’s more than just showing up in a young person’s life, which is important—we’re going through lessons that will help them later on in life.”

iMentor works with schools to provide mentors for every student in particular classes. Local program managers spend time each week with classes. Students and mentors meet together and as a group regularly.

Struggling with English

“When we first met, we clicked instantly,” Anisa says.

Anisa noticed right away that her mentee was struggling with English.

“She’s from the Dominican Republic and had only been in the U.S. for two years,” she says. “We got started right away—working hard—on her English.”

A Turning Point

“She was also really shy and afraid to speak with others,” Anisa says, “even if they spoke Spanish.”

“I tried to explain to her that she’ll have to gain some confidence to work a job one day,” she says. “I told her that she has a lot to add to the conversation.”

A turning point came during a meeting with other mentors and mentees.

“We were asked to deliver elevator pitches to other people in the room,” Anisa says. “My mentee turned to me and said ‘Anisa, I can’t do this.”

Anisa assured that she can … and that the group was as supportive as any group would ever be.

When Anisa’s mentee returned from the conversation across the room, Anisa asked her how it went.

“‘Great!’ she told me.”

“She did it,” Anisa says, “and she did it well.”

The Lighter Side of Mentoring

Anisa has met many members of her mentee’s family. “They treat me like I’m a member of the family,” Anisa says.

“I brought her along to work one day to see what an office job might look like,” Anisa says. “She didn’t find it very exciting.”

“She told me that there were so many meetings,” she says. “Still, I thought it was good for her to see.”

There have also been some lighter moments.

“I won two tickets to a Beyonce concert a few years ago,” Anisa says. “We were in a suite in the Barclays Center, can you believe it?”

Many of her mentees friends had given her their phones to record portions of the show.

“It was so cute,” Anisa says, “she kept having to switch back and forth between phones.”

Tackling the College Application Process Together

“Taking the SAT was very stressful for her,” Anisa says. “It wasn’t just a challenge in English—she had really high expectations.”

“When she started applying for schools, then the real roller coaster began,” Anisa says.

“She got her rejection letters first,” Anisa says. “And she wondered if she’d ever get to college.”

Neither of her mentees had gone to college. Anisa felt an extra burden to help her mentee find the confidence that she could get there.

“In the end, she was accepted a few places,” Anisa says.

Her mentee has a scholarship to St. Joseph’s, she is a Forensic Computer Science major—and is there with two friends from high school.

A Future Mentor

“I think we’ll always be in touch,” Anisa says. “She tells me that she wants to be a mentor one day.”

The two attended an iMentor event recently where they met “three generations of mentors”—a mentor, a mentee who became a mentor, and the current mentee.

“We have to do that!,” she told me. “It’s such a great program.”