By Megan Figueroa, Program Manager
At the start of a new year, we often spend time reflecting on our past and envisioning our futures. As 2020 marks the start of a new decade, I find myself reflecting on the path I have taken in the last 10 years; what decisions did I make throughout, where did those decisions take me and most importantly who were the individuals I encountered along the way. I find myself taking pause in gratitude for those individuals who have been a source of wisdom, teaching and support- mentors who have impacted me more than they ever would have known.
Mentors are an invaluable resource as we progress through life, coming in all shapes and sizes, providing encouragement and insight in both the personal and professional arena. When it comes to the development of gifted youth, the role of a mentor can have a life-changing impact.
“One of the most valuable experiences a gifted student can have is exposure to a mentor who is willing to share personal values, a particular interest, time, talents, and skills.” (Berger, 1990)
Establishing a close personal relationship with a mentor provides a safety net for young people; knowing that someone genuinely cares about them allows young people to confidently explore their options and dream about their futures.
As I reflect on the powerful role of a mentor and think fondly back on those that have helped shape me; I am inspired to give back and cultivate mentoring relationships with and for others. Through IEA’s EXPLORE program we have the opportunity to do just that.
EXPLORE matches gifted and high potential high school students with distinguished mentors who share their interests and passions. Under the guidance of mentors, students advance their skills through hands-on learning experiences and research work. Students grow intellectually through collaborative discussions and work with like-minded peers and mentors in a field of their interest.
“EXPLORE allowed me to gain a better idea of a field I had an interest in but no knowledge about. I feel more confident in embarking on a professional career with the skills I learned.” – Thalia Loi, EXPLORE Extern 2018.
EXPLORE Mentors are eager to share their wisdom and experiences with students. “As a college professor, I like to mentor pre-college students, as a way to give back to the life-altering mentors I had as a gifted teen.” – Dr. Aaron Blaisdell, EXPLORE Mentor 2019. They continue to dedicate their time, expertise, knowledge and skills with EXPLORE students because of their remarkable potential and work they perform with them each summer.
Thank you to all our EXPLORE Mentors and anyone who has invested in the life of a young person; you have made a difference.