Unafraid to Be A Leader: Melissa and Stephanie’s Story

As iMentor celebrates its 25th anniversary, we are looking back at mentorship pairs who have made a lasting impact beyond high school. Melissa and Stephanie are a mentee and mentor from iMentor NYC who first met in 2012 at Hyde Leadership Charter School. They share how their relationship has extended outside of iMentor and how they continue to be an important part of each other’s lives.

First Impressions

Upon meeting for the first time, Stephanie recalls that Melissa seemed shy and quiet. According to Melissa, this was because she was in awe of her new mentor. “From the get-go, I was so intimidated because she was so cool. I could barely talk,” she says. Even so, it didn’t take long for Melissa to warm up to Stephanie. “She was so welcoming and inviting. At one point we stopped talking about the [assignment] and she started talking about me, and what we can do to help me.”

Stephanie remembers a separate initial moment of connection with her mentee that involved a chance encounter with actor Chase Crawford. After seeing a performance at the Roundabout Theater, Melissa was bold enough to approach him for a photo; all of a sudden, Stephanie viewed her in a much different light. “It set our relationship on a different level because the next time I went to meet her at school, she had so much to say,” Stephanie recalls. “I always pointed back to that moment to say, even though you were nervous, [you] still did it.”

Guidance Through College

Melissa enrolled at Molloy College for her freshman year. During that year, she found herself at a crossroads and needed some guidance about which direction to take. Despite not having the formal iMentor program to structure their meetups, Stephanie did not hesitate to connect with Melissa once again. “She immediately jumped back into my life,” Melissa explains. “When I realized that she was doing this for herself, it made our bond stronger.”

Melissa faced the decision of whether to transfer to Baruch College – a decision she did not take lightly. She felt a lot of pressure to graduate on time, but luckily Stephanie did not add to that pressure. “She [said] people are always filling you with, ‘You’re supposed to do things a certain way, because everybody does it that way.’ [She was] kind enough to remind me that it was okay to not follow that because everybody does things differently,” Melissa remarks. She decided to transfer to Baruch College and graduated with a BBA in marketing and a minor in communications.

As a mentor, being able to offer that advice was a memorable moment for Stephanie, as it demonstrated the strength of their relationship. “You hope that you’re building that connection. When you feel that you’re actually able to do that, it feels special,” she says.

Stephanie credits Melissa's determination to overcome fear and doubt by taking action as crucial to the longevity of their relationship. Melissa would check in, regardless of how much time had passed – being persistent to maintain their mentoring relationship. Of course, Stephanie always cherished hearing from Melissa!

Tapping into Career Networks

Another role that a mentor can play in a person’s life is to expose them to career opportunities in their networks. Stephanie works in corporate social responsibility at EY and needed a team member to fill in during her parental leave. She instantly thought of Melissa for the contract.

Melissa felt apprehensive – having no experience in a corporate environment – but gained confidence to take the role because of the confidence that Stephanie had in her. In the end, she acknowledged that she was afraid because of her lack of knowledge about the corporate world, and that many are in a similar position as her.

“I would have never known that this was a job unless someone was there to give me that opportunity,” Melissa says. “I am grateful that she thought I was capable enough to work on her team and [for] trusting me.” Through this role, she expanded her professional connections and added to her skill set that she can leverage for future opportunities.

A Part of the Family

Melissa and Stephanie have seen their mentorship grow and transform for over 10 years. The two still remain in touch – although now their meetings are less focused on career advice and more centered on spending quality time with Stephanie’s newborn addition to her family. For Stephanie, it was natural to include Melissa in this occasion. “Melissa is definitely an extension of my family, too,” she says.

Melissa reflects on the value that having a mentor like Stephanie has had on her life, adding that she is glad she put in the effort to nurture their relationship. She has changed a lot since their first meeting as a teenager, and now Melissa feels that she can speak up, ask questions, and not be afraid to be a leader. “I sincerely told her, if [Stephanie] were not in my life, I genuinely do not believe I would have anyone else that comes close to her,” she says. “And it all started because of iMentor.”

We need more mentors to build impactful relationships like Melissa and Stephanie’s! Become a mentor today: https://imentor.org/get-involved/become-a-mentor