How a Chicago Mentor and Mentee Stay Connected During Social Distancing

The heart of iMentor’s model and mission is building personal relationships. During these uncertain times, we are compelled to help sustain and bolster these connections. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we are featuring a few of our dedicated mentors. Today, we talk to Katie Lewitt about how she’s supporting her Chicago Military '21 mentee, Jarmiah, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What inspired you to become a mentor?

I am extremely bothered by the educational disparities in America based on race and socioeconomic status, for a multitude of reasons, and I wanted to contribute to mitigating that gap. Education, guidance, and civic engagement should be a right, not a privilege or a game of luck. Mentorship provides me firsthand insight into affected communities, which furthers my own personal education and my ability to help.

Tell me about your mentee.

Jarmiah is such an incredible individual. She is insightful, wise beyond her years, and unbelievably creative, her main outlet is poetry. She is resilient and she has only scratched the surface of her vast potential.

How have you and your mentee been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic together?

Jarmiah and I check in almost daily. I am seeing that she does not fully grasp the severity of the pandemic, and that she is also stuck in a more difficult situation at home. I am trying to gently offer suggestions on how to effectively fill the time, while also keeping her engaged with schoolwork. How to tell a teenager to do her schoolwork when she does not have to attend class is certainly an art form that I have not yet honed!

Yale is currently offering a free course on how to live a happier life. These are skills that I wish I had learned at 17, so I am encouraging her to take this course with me as something we can share!

What have you gained from volunteering?

As we are just a few months into the program, I am just learning the goings-on in the mind of a teenager, especially one who sometimes feels misunderstood. Every person at every age wants to feel heard and accepted.

On a personal level, I am becoming grateful for areas in my life that I have previously perceived as missteps, as they are helping me provide more educated guidance to Jarmiah.