By Niña Abonal
As we progress through life, we continue to expand our networks and relationships with people in various academic, professional and personal circles. If we are lucky enough, we stumble upon a handful of individuals who nurture our skills and talents, challenge us to achieve our full potential and provide us with guidance through life’s obstacles. These people become valued mentors who can leave a profound impact on our overall development and growth.
When it comes to the development of gifted youth, mentoring can matter. Studies conducted by Christian Fischer(1) and J.J. Gallagher(2) show that:
- What highly gifted students need most are good mentors to serve as guides as they navigate complex subject matter.
- Mentorships are particularly effective in guiding the development of gifted young people through difficult formative years.
- Mentoring experiences help remove the barriers to advanced learning that schools can sometimes create.
Mentors are invaluable, and often, untapped resources young people should take advantage of. They come in all shapes and sizes and bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experiences that can help young people navigate important life decisions and challenges, like choosing the right college or exploring a career path. Through mentoring relationships, gifted students are able to mature, explore future careers and successes, apply classroom knowledge, and gain role models (Berger, 1990). Confiding in mentor also provides a safety net for young people to know someone is genuinely invested in them and they are not dealing with a problem alone. Research has shown that mentoring relationships can leave a powerful and positive impression in a young person’s life, and ultimately becomes a strong connection to possible social and economic opportunities.
Reflecting on the impact of mentors, I was fortunate enough to find a mentor who willingly took me under her wings. Feeling a bit lost in my own purpose and path in life, she not only offered me my first job in college as a tutor, but also allowed me to realize my true calling and passion for education and helping young people succeed. She saw something in me that even I, at the time, could not see in myself. With her unrelenting encouragement, I wholeheartedly pursued a path in the field of education and continued my thirst for learning in graduate school. The once treacherous waters of academic and professional life seemed less daunting with her support and guidance. I found myself with a more distinct path towards a life of purpose. As our mentoring relationship progressed through the years, she became more than just my boss, but also my trusted mentor, valued colleague and life-long friend. She’s left an indelible imprint in my life and our mentoring relationship continues to evolve as I enter different stages in my life.
As a professional, I was inspired by my mentoring relationship and wanted to pay it forward. I took on various roles in education where I met and mentored some amazingly brilliant young people who were driven to succeed despite the barriers they faced along the way. Now as a Program Coordinator at IEA, I have an opportunity to continue working with exceptional youth through IEA’s EXPLORE program.
EXPLORE matches gifted and high potential high schoolers with distinguished mentors who share their interests and passions. Under the guidance of their mentors, students advance their skills through hands-on learning experiences and research work. Students also grow intellectually through collaborative discussions and work with like-minded peers and mentors in a field of their interest. EXPLORE Mentors are eager to share their wisdom and experiences with students. They continue to dedicate their time, expertise, knowledge and skills with EXPLORE students because of the remarkable potential and work they perform with them each summer.
Mentoring can matter and it’s never too late to seek out a mentor! EXPLORE the amazing mentors and sites for this summer at IEA’s website and submit an application today!
Fischer, Christian. Scientific American, Gifted Children: How to Bring Out Their Potential, September, 2008, http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=coaching-the-gifted-child.
Gallagher, J.J. Teaching the gifted child. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1985.
Berger, Sandra. Mentor Relationships and Gifted Learners, 1990, http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10141.aspx.
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Niña Abonal graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A. in Business Administration and a minor in Elementary Education. She later returned to LMU to earn her Master of Arts in Educational Studies. With a decade of experience working in educational non-profits, she has taken on various roles including tutoring K-8 students in all subject areas, providing SAT prep, serving as a college advisor for a virtual college access program, and coordinating professional internships for high school students. During her free time, she enjoys volunteering, hiking, exploring new places to eat, and spending time with her family. She is eager to continue her passion working with youth at IEA and hopes to continually seek innovative ways to improve the quality of and access to educational resources for all students.