Lana and Sydney: Nurturing Bonds Beyond Virtual Boundaries

When Lana first joined iMentor she didn’t have any expectations. She knew of coworkers that volunteered but she didn’t really understand what being a mentor entailed. Right before the pandemic started, one of Lana’s close friends volunteered and later encouraged her to. However, Lana had low expectations for how much of an impact she could make from meeting virtually once a month and trying to bond with a student with very different life experiences.

When Sydney first heard she would be participating in the iMentor program it was in the midst of the pandemic. Initially, she felt a mix of fear and nervousness, unsure of what to expect. However, she immediately started creating expectations in her head for what that relationship could look like. Sydney wanted to create an immediate bond with Lana and had high hopes of becoming close friends.

Sydney realized quickly that building a deep level of trust and friendship with a mentor takes time, and she was cautious about opening up and sharing personal details with someone she had just met. It took a little time to warm up in the first meeting, but Lana was impressed by Sydney‘s strong work ethic and was looking forward to learning more about her and supporting her goals.

Their relationship took a turn when Sydney was preparing for presentations in all of her core classes. She had a reading assignment, a book by Toni Morrison, which was causing her stress. It was during this time that Lana reached out and revealed that she had purchased the same book and suggested they read it together. This act of support and camaraderie left a lasting impression on Sydney. Despite knowing Lana for only a few months, Sydney realized that not many adults would go the extra mile of purchasing a book to read alongside a student. It was a powerful indication that Lana was truly invested in Sydney's well-being and growth. From that moment forward, Sydney knew she could rely on Lana for guidance, whether it was seeking advice on college-related questions or seeking assistance with readings and assignments. Lana was a trusted mentor, always available to lend a helping hand.

“I only knew her for about a couple of months and most of these adults that I know wouldn't purchase a book to read with me,” Sydney said. “This was the first time I was like, oh wow, Lana is here to help me. I immediately knew that if I needed advice for college or life, I could go to her. Even if I was reading something or just doing an assignment, she would be willing to help.”

With a strong foundation for their relationship, it became time to start thinking about colleges and Sydney’s plans after high school. Sydney wanted to go to college, but she wasn’t sure whether she would stay close to home or venture farther away. Together, they delved into exploring various schools and majors, spending hours researching, talking to their Program Manager, and getting ready for applications. Lana guided Sydney through the process, helping her narrow down her options and consider potential areas of focus, such as medicine, neurology, psychology, and English. They familiarized themselves with the strengths and specializations of different schools, particularly SUNY and CUNY institutions.

“We started connecting and just talking about her interests and her passions for school,” said Lana. “She was originally quiet but as we started talking, and discovering shared interests, like how we both like to read and similar music or pop culture, our relationship strengthened.”

Lana aimed to prevent Sydney from becoming overwhelmed by the application process, ensuring she applied to schools that aligned with her interests and had potential scholarship opportunities. They also embarked on virtual college tours, allowing Lana to share her personal college experience. Lana provided insights on factors to consider, such as campus facilities, distance, school size, and the benefits of both small and large institutions. Over time, Sydney's attitude shifted from nervousness and a preference for leaving home to a growing openness to stay close to home. Ultimately, Sydney got accepted and committed to NYU – her dream school!

Although Sydney started college away from home and their meetings were constrained to zoom calls, Lana and Sydney continued to bond. These calls were enjoyable for both of them, Lana would quickly email Sydney, uncertain of her busy schedule, seeking a moment to vent and connect. Their conversations would often stretch for over an hour, filled with laughter and catching up. Even though they couldn't physically be together, the moments they shared kept the relationship alive and let both Lana and Sydney act as pillars of support for each other.

When Sydney got back home to New York, their bond picked up right where it left off. Lana and Sydney decided to try something new and visited a pottery painting experience. It was an exciting and interactive activity, completely different from what they had done before. In the past, their hangouts involved going out to eat or simply spending time together, but this was very hands on and allowed Sydney to express her creativity.

Despite initial nervousness from both Lana and Sydney, magnified by the pandemic and the virtual environment, their eagerness to connect laid the foundation for a strong relationship. And the best part is, Sydney finally got her wish – today Sydney and her mentor Lana are great friends.

Learn more about how you can build a lasting relationship with a student just like Sydney by becoming a mentor today.