I am Latina. I am a feminist. I am a first generation college graduate. I am a first generation law graduate. I am a young professional. It is because of these identities that I feel a responsibility to my community, to all the communities in which I can be a mentor. I have always sought out opportunities whether formally or informally to be a mentor. Mentoring isn’t just helping people achieve their school or work goals, but also helping them discover who they want to be.
Mentorship is important because it gives people the opportunity to hope, to see themselves or who they want to be, as possible. When I lived in NY, I became a mentor to a Latina senior in high school through a mentorship program. Did we have everything in common? No. But for her to see a person who grew up with a similar socio-economic background, be able to successfully complete college was very important. Could she have developed a successful mentor relationship with someone completely different? Sure. However, I think understanding the pressure she felt from her community to succeed not only brought us closer but made her listen to what I had to say.
As I look around my own profession as a higher ed administrator, I do not see many people that look like me or have a similar background. My former boss at my previous job was a white woman however she had worked her way up in twenty years from a receptionist to Dean. Her knowledge in the field and also her experience as a young ambitious woman made her an amazing mentor. I learned so much from her, not only about my job but how to be a professional. Despite the lack of people of color, I do see many powerful women. I have found mentors in them and their advice has been invaluable. But knowing what it feels like to be the only [fill in the blank] keeps me motivated to reach out to those looking for direction and support.
I am never one identity at a time. Each identity factors into how I see the world. Being able to exist in an intersectional space allows me to support many different people. It lets me seek support from different spaces. Strengthening these networks through mentorship is a responsibility not because I fall into these labels but because I embrace them.
Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.