Meet Our Mentors: Shannon Hartley

We asked Shannon Hartley, a Marble Hill School for International Studies '20 mentor, about her first year of mentoring and how she plans to assist her mentee Esther on her path to post-secondary success.

In light of COVID-19, Shannon has been communicating with Esther twice a week rather than weekly over the iMentor platform app, now that all iMentor in-person activities have moved online. Like many other mentors, Shannon shifted to supporting her mentee through the transition to remote learning. They've also celebrated Esther's birthday over text, talked about homework assignments, and even researched dogs together (Shannon is thinking about getting a husky!). Shannon and Esther are a great example of how our mentor-mentee pairs are staying connected, even while apart.

How did you learn about the opportunity to volunteer with iMentor, and what motivated you to become a mentor?

Mentoring is an important part of our work culture, and I've always enjoyed that part of my job—I love being there as a sounding board for people. I also liked that part of iMentor’s mission is to encourage kids to think bigger about college and what opportunities are out there for them. I went to high school and college in South Africa, but iMentor made it clear you don’t have to be an expert in the American education system to mentor – they give you the tools you need to understand the system and be in a position to help.

What is your relationship with your mentee like, and how has it developed over time?

My mentee’s name is Esther, and she’s an 9th grader at the Marble Hill High School for International Studies. Esther is actually a fraternal triplet—her sister attends the same school and also has a mentor, and their brother goes to another high school. After we were matched, I reached out to Esther to introduce myself, and told her I was looking forward to meeting her at the next event. She responded by telling me about herself and let me know she’s shy, so I shouldn’t be offended if she’s quiet around me. Our first couple meetings were me just trying to get her comfortable around me. But now I think she’s a lot more at ease – and she seems to feel comfortable talking to me about anything.

How have you supported your mentee in planning for life after high school?

Esther’s attracted to medicine and thinks that's something that she wants to study, but she also wants to find out more about tech. It's actually funny that you asked, because she messaged me earlier in the week and brought up the fact that if she studied medicine, she'd have to be in school for, you know, the rest of her life. She hasn't made a final decision yet, which is normal for a freshman. I’m an accountant—pretty far removed from being a doctor—so the educational pathway for doctors in the U.S. is something we’ll keep learning about together.

Throughout this first year, what’s been your favorite moment/memory with your mentee?

At one of the iMentor events we did an activity where you make a building from index cards. Two pairs work together, and it's a competition. We teamed up with Esther’s twin sister and her sister's mentor, and seeing the two sisters’ interactions and their competitiveness gave me a lot of insight into Esther. She's a planner, and if she believes in something, she can be very firm about it, but at the same time, she listens and takes input from other people. So I got to see her leadership skills, which was amazing.

Her school also put on a cultural event around Thanksgiving to introduce the different cultures within the school. It was a fun event because it was less structured — there was music and her friends were around, so it was nice to see her in her natural element.

What have you gained from volunteering as a mentor?

It's still early in our relationship, but I’d say it’s helped me develop patience, especially because I have a mentee who isn't an extrovert. I work with people who put themselves out there on a daily basis, because that's just the nature of our job. So it was interesting having to communicate with somebody who doesn't necessarily do that. It's taught me to just be patient and give the two of us time to grow into the relationship.