Tina & Kyleah

The personal growth and development of our students is why we do this work. And because we know that student success cannot solely rest on the shoulders of our mentors, our curriculum is critical in helping mentors help students, like Kyleah, realize their full potential.

Kyleah and her mentor, Tina, are both friendly and outgoing, and they clicked right away.

"Tina is an awesome mentor. She's full of spirit, you'll never see her not smiling," Kyleah said. "And we connect over a lot: fashion and shopping, being in community, helping, talking to people, people knowing our name. I don't like sitting in the house, and Tina doesn't either. We always want to be exploring new things, meeting people, trying something new."

From the beginning Tina was instrumental in Kyleah's personal growth - through conversations about biting off challenges one piece at a time - but it was their engagement with iMentor's curriculum that truly changed things for Kyleah.

During her freshman year of high school, Kyleah struggled with two of her classes - Chemistry and Algebra - but didn't seek help to improve her performance. In her own words, "I held back because I didn't want to bother my teachers by approaching at the wrong time or sending an email - I didn't know I could just ask." She shared with Tina the academic challenges she was facing. Tina didn't feel she was in the best position to directly support Kyleah with her classes, so she relied on another solution.

Tina turned to the program's curriculum to help guide her conversations. The pair focused on the lesson about self-advocacy, which assists mentees with exploring who is responsible for supporting them in specific ways during high school and how to use their voices to get the support they need. Together the pair identified who Kyleah could speak to, how reach to out to them, and ways to ask for the help she needs.

"We talked about her game plan," Tina said, "who she would reach out to first, and what she would ask. She really likes her assistant principal - who coincidentally I grew up with - so Kyleah went to her, and she was connected to some tutoring resources."

Kyleah began staying after school to study. The extra time she put in paid off; Kyleah improved her grades and her self-confidence.

Shauna Mays, the BBBS program manager assigned to support the pair was excited to witness the tangible impact on Kyleah's confidence, and observed that "lessons like these give students the space to self-reflect and reevaluate situations so they can grow from them."

As a mentor, Tina appreciates having "Miss Shauna" in their camp as well. "Kyleah truly has a team. It ultimately makes me feel good to know that the support she gets through this program extends beyond me."

Looking back, Tina is more aware than ever of the team she benefitted from growing up, which is what drew her to volunteer as a mentor, first in Big Brothers Big Sisters' Community Program, and now with a high schooler through Mentor 2.0 - our partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

"I come from a big family, and growing up, I had a lot of support," Tina said. "As you grow up and get out into the world, you tend to appreciate your family and home life more. We had a lot of conversations about the importance of giving back, and my parents would say to me, 'If you are blessed to be blessed, you need to be a blessing to others'."

Kyleah anticipates that her relationship with Tina will only grow with time. "As the years go on, I think me and Tina are going to keep building a stronger bond," she said. "She'll watch me graduate, and grow up more, and I'll watch her grow up more, too."