Finding That Spark: Q&A with Mentor Sherman Reid for National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month and iMentor is celebrating our community of volunteers, who support mentees for three pivotal years as they complete high school and move toward their post-secondary pathways of choice. Join us for our "Mentoring Matters" event on Facebook Live on January 22, 1-1:30pm EST, as Sherman Reid, an NYC mentor, and Molly Haleblian, a Chicago mentor, have a conversation about their mentoring journeys.

Sherman has been a mentor for nine years and is a member of iMentor NYC’s Young Executive Board. He recently shared with us what drew him to mentoring, how mentoring during the pandemic has challenged him, and how he and his mentee have influenced each other. Be sure to catch Sherman on January 22.

What motivates you to be mentor?

Every time I am asked this question, I have to think back to my own high school experience. Although I may not have known it at the time, I was putting my future in jeopardy. Cutting class like I did caused me to have to attend school the entire year and for all four years. Being the only son of a single Black mom, I could have easily been another statistic on the wrong side of the society ledger. By not doing the basic work in school, I was sabotaging my future by not better preparing myself for life after high school.

So it's very important for me to set an example not only for my own children, but for any young person I meet. To guide them on a life journey to understand themselves and find that which makes their hearts beat fast—that passion, or spark, that drives them so they'll never work a day in their lives.

Tell us about your mentee. How do you think you've influenced him, and how do you think he has influenced you?

Jamol is a true entrepreneur, a businessman with an outgoing personality. He is a senior at Bronx Law and has a catering business that he runs on the side. He follows the stock market as a young investor, and has done some modeling as well. It's my belief I've influenced Jamol to continue learning about finance so that he may be better equipped to sustain and take his catering business to the next level. Just as much as I help him, Jamol has influenced me in return by constantly encouraging me to pursue my professional goals.

Covid-19 has brought such a challenge and hardship to so many people. What has mentoring during the pandemic been like for you?

Mentoring during the pandemic has been a huge challenge. Most of the time I reached out to Jamol to check in. I made sure he and his family were safe and he had the tools he needed to continue his academics. I made sure he knew that he could depend on me should he need anything.

Dealing with virtual mentoring is hard enough when you can't be physically in front of each other. Plus the expectation for students to continue learning as if nothing has changed is stressful and very difficult.

At the same time, there's so much going on the world. Covid forced everyone to watch, pay attention and be witnesses of the atrocities Black people have endured every day of their lives. This country still won't acknowledge, take accountability or compensate us for the centuries of oppression. To be present for a young Black teenager and help him make sense of what he most likely will experience, if he hasn't already, is a heavy weight to carry. Although Zoom meetings allowed us to stay connected, it couldn't give us that genuine connection we desperately needed during a time of continuous pain.

What have you discovered is an unexpected reward of being a mentor?

I’ve been astounded by the amazing mentees and mentors I've had the honor to meet and all the doors that have opened, leading to bigger and broader opportunities for me personally.

Moreover, mentoring is a two-way experience. As much as we are here to support our mentees, they also give us a new perspective into our own lives and teach us a few things about life. The level of insight I've experienced amazes me. It's the impact of one word or a piece of advice that may have seemed small but can have a profound effect.

Watch this video about how the pandemic affected one iMentor student and his family in the Bronx, NY. Learn about iMentor's Collective Response Fund.