From “Awkward” to Life-Changing: Laura and Sonah’s Story

When Laura Guerrero first met her mentor, Sonah Lee, she was a transfer student at Marble Hills High School in the Bronx. She describes the pair’s early relationship as “a bit awkward”.

Today, Laura is a college senior getting ready to graduate from Binghamton University—and she credits a large part of her success to Sonah.

“Our relationship really evolved through the years. When I first met Sonah, I could feel her care and how generous she was, but it was very much ‘mentor - mentee’,” said Laura. “Eventually, we built a very strong relationship. She helped me with the SATs, and applying for colleges and finding the right fit. We both thought Binghamton would be pretty good for me, so I ended up applying there and majoring in English.”

But the once “awkward” relationship between Laura and Sonah didn’t stop with Laura’s college acceptance. When Laura started college, their relationship continued—and in fact, expanded.

As Laura grappled to balance academics, office hours, new friends, clubs and other aspects of college life for the first time, she came to rely on Sonah less for academic support and more for life tips.

Laura and Sonah

“It was my first time outside of home,” Laura said. “Sonah helped me navigate my life—how to meet people, how to join clubs. She became more of a friend… a friend that I very much respected and looked up to.”

Sonah was also there for Laura during some tough moments of imposter syndrome and anxiety, whether around difficult classes, relationship issues, or moments of self doubt during internships.

“The moments I really needed Sonah’s support were the start of each semester when I would feel insecure,” said Laura. “I would just tell her a word vomit of everything in my head and how I was feeling, and she would tell me that I am capable. That I can do it. That I’ve been through similar things in the past, and that she’d seen my growth. She was always there to remind me of that.”

With Sonah’s guidance and steadfast reassurance, Laura thrived in college, balancing the many new responsibilities of college life with poise. She soon discovered that she had an interest in public relations and communications, and began to focus on how to carve out a career path through more targeted coursework and internships.

When senior year rolled around, though, a new challenge came with it (especially given the pandemic): job applications.

“Looking for jobs, I needed a lot of help that my peers didn’t know how to give me,” Laura said. “I wasn’t sure how to best focus my interests, or how to approach the application process.”

Luckily, Sonah was at the ready.

“We had weekly meetings about what jobs I was applying to and how I could prepare. Sonah looked over my cover letter and resume. We definitely fell back into that dynamic of mentoring again.”

Though Laura is still actively job searching (she is open to different fields, but knows she wants something where she can explore her love of writing, interviewing people and continuously learning), she knows that whatever comes next, Sonah will be there.

“Sonah told me she doesn’t want another mentee just yet, because she wants me to be very well settled into my career first,” Laura said.

So, what does it feel like to have someone that is so singularly dedicated to her success? According to Laura: inspirational.

“I want to be a mentor myself in the future,” Laura said. “Sonah dedicated seven years of her life to me. I want to be the type of mentor she was for me.”

But, not right away, she added.

“I want to be settled into my career, and then be that person that another little high school girl can look up to. I want to be able to dedicate as much time as possible to her and make sure that she’s the most successful woman that she can be.”