Education Was My Beacon

Carol Ashley, an iMentor Bay Area program manager , shares how mentoring changed her life and how her 11th grade students wow her every day.

As a program manager, I make sure these kids are prepared for what life after high school may bring. This work is near and dear to my heart because I'm a first-generation college graduate, and in high school, I had a mentor who helped me get to graduation.

One day, my mentor brought her mentees over to her house, and we all worked on our college essays. She helped us build out our stories of who we are, why we want to go on to college, and helped us show our best selves through these essays.

I didn't have many people to look to for advice or support in the college application process. My mentor played a crucial part in supporting me—having someone work with me for four hours every weekend in the month of October was key to my getting through the college process.

I went on to major in education at UC Santa Cruz. Education was my beacon.

Our students are so capable of so many things. Last week, we did interview prep with students who were applying for a scholarship. One student asked us, “What outfit should I wear?” Another had created a strategy handbook, a notebook of topics he could talk about during the interview. I saw how prepared and excited and appreciative they were for this opportunity. It really warmed my heart to see the kids thriving in an environment outside of what they know.

The students are undoubtedly the best part of my job. They always surprise me with their resilience. Many of these students have been through a lot in their short 16 or 17 years. Some are providing for their families. Some are foster kids. And I see their outlook and perspective change when they know there's someone supporting them.