How Heritage Inspires This Chicago Mentor

Each year, iMentor calls on thousands of mentors to support students, making a particular effort in recruiting mentors of color in order to mirror the demographic of students we serve. Currently, 93 percent of iMentor students are people of color. To reflect on the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, we spoke with Elizabeth Soto, a mentor of Mexican heritage, about her experience mentoring a student in Chicago. Elizabeth shared why she was excited to mentor a Latinx student and how her culture informed her mentoring.

How has your heritage shaped the way you mentor?

My heritage and background play important roles in the way I mentor. I often reflect on my own experience and on what was lacking for me, to help enhance my mentee's experience. I also reflect on my upbringing and the sacrifices my parents made when they decided to leave Mexico, and also throughout my life, to ensure I was able to attend college. I do my best to provide resources and answers I wish I had access to as an undergraduate. Most importantly, I am able to relate to what it means to be a minority student pursuing higher education.

What are small things you do to honor your culture?

I do my best to learn family recipes from my mother and grandmother and attend cultural events with my family. I think maintaining tradition is important. I also stay connected and honor my culture by listening to music, reading, and watching documentaries.

Can you explain why you found it important to pursue becoming a mentor?

Being a first-generation student came with many challenges and obstacles. I had to learn how to navigate the college experience on my own, and my journey was very similar when I pursued my master's degree. Now, as a doctoral student, I am the only Latinx student in my cohort, which further speaks to the need to continue mentoring the next generation. I hope my contributions make things easier for my mentee, so she never has to go through college feeling alone or lacking guidance.

How are you and your mentee able to strengthen your connection through cultural identity?

I am able to strengthen my connection with my mentee by speaking Spanish. Whether through conversation or sending each other memes, we never forget our roots. We are always sharing family traditions and asking each other what our plans are for the holidays, which is when we get to see our families the most. Once we are able to do outings more frequently, I hope to attend different events to further dive into our cultural identity together.

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