Power Lunches and “Friends” in Pittsburgh

Today we talk to Kendra Reith, a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, an iMentor Partner Program, about how she got to know her mentee, Iris, and how they have been navigating the COVID-19 crisis together.

What inspired you to volunteer as a mentor?

I was looking for a way to get more involved in the community. Looking for ways that I can try to make a difference/impact.

Tell me about your mentee.

Iris is a 16-year-old 10th grader. She was born in El Salvador and moved here with her family. She loves her friends and her phone!She wants to go into cosmetology after high school.She was shy at first, as was I.

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

Our relationship is good. I found that while our monthly Mentor 2.0 meetings are great, since they are done with the whole class, it is hard to sit and talk with her one on one. I started taking advantage of Power Lunches last year when she was in 9th grade to give us more one-on-one time to get to know each other better.

This year in 10th grade, lunches are very early, at 10am, but I have been trying to come in at least once a month to meet with her. While I do try to help her focus on school, we often talk about current things that we like to do. What are we watching on Netflix? What music are we listening to?I recently bonded with her and her group of friends over the show “Friends.”I was working on finding us events and things we could go to together, but then the pandemic happened.

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

We've been texting often, playing games like pool and chess via text. I've been checking in with her about spending so much time with her family, making sure she has the resources she needs for school. Lots of Netflix recommendations going back and forth. I’m sending her milkshakes via UberEats as we speak.

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

I've tried my best to help her understand and research as many options that are available in the field that she has told me she wants to go into.To help her understand that this isn't just "makeup,” and research what types of careers can fall within the cosmetology world, outside of being a makeup artist or hair stylist.

What have you gained from volunteering?

Patience. Probably the most important thing I've gained is the understanding that we are all in different situations and have different opportunities available to us. I grew up in a very rural area and went to a very small school, so looking at Iris's experience in high school compared to mine is like comparing day to night.

How have you grown or what have you learned?

I've learned what it's like to grow up in an urban area in a very diverse school with all sorts of situations going on. I've learned how much social media plays a role in the student's lives.She has also encouraged me to work on improving on and learning Spanish. I am nowhere near the point where I can have conversations with her, but I'm working on it!