Lynn & Leslie It all began in 2000, when I was helping out in a second grade classroom at McNear School. Mentor Me (Petaluma) was just gearing up. I was asked if I would be willing to participate in the program and mentor a second grade girl, Leslie Mejia.
During the years of elementary school and Junior High we met faithfully every week, played board games, cards and checkers, did art projects, talked and shared. At vacation times and on some weekends we took advantage of the riches of the Bay Area-museums, ecological sites, San Francisco offerings, theater, concerts, holiday celebrations.
When Leslie entered Petaluma High School our meetings were not to regular. She had a very busy schedule. But we got together at least once a month, either over a meal or a special outing and/or experience.
At the time of her high school graduation Leslie was scholastically in the top ten of her class with a GPA over 4.0 She had mastered a series of AP classes. That achievement enabled her to enter college as a sophomore. The college she chose and that chose her is the University of California, Berkeley. Now she is a full time student there studying environmental issues. She works part time on campus at the International House where she interacts with fellow students from all over the world.
She loves the challenge and the opportunity that she is a part of. In her first semester she earned straight A’s.
We continue to maintain the bond that I treasure. I am looking forward to being a part of her success.
Thank you for sharing your story, Lynn!
Kent & Eduardo Kent Smith, a retired retail executive and business owner, was recognized with the Service to Youth award at the 2015 Petaluma Awards of Excellence in March for his prolific involvement in the Mentor Me program.
“I was just amazed,” Smith said. “I got the phone call that I had won this award and I had no idea that I had even been nominated. I just really am very flattered and honored. I’m not used to getting recognition and it feels great.”
Mentor Me is a youth mentoring organization founded in 2000, which matches adults in the community with at-risk youths for one hour, one day a week. The program has blossomed with 18 partner schools in four districts, primarily located in Petaluma.
Deb Dalton, Executive Director of Mentor Me, said there are two main reasons why she nominated Smith. The first is Smith mentors seven kids, the most of anybody. Secondly, Smith exemplifies what it is to be a mentor in his eight years of involvement.
“Kent is extraordinary and he always has been,” said Dalton, “Kent becomes a family mentor. He gets involved in a way that really looks at the whole picture. He is so filled with compassion for not only the kid, but the family and their circumstances.”
Smith’s compassion is evident. On one occasion, he helped a mentee repair a slight facial disfigurement.
Smith said he approached the mentee one day with a proposition to find the means to repair his lip, which the boy accepted without hesitation.
The boy was eventually able to get affordable health insurance, which led them to a plastic surgeon who will undertake the surgery free of charge. The mentee is currently receiving dental care which, like the surgery, is free of charge.
Smith was also able to help the same boy receive his social security card and documents which allowed him to get a job.
Smith’s personal story growing up lends to the character he personifies today. Born in Connecticut and raised in New England, Smith’s experience in school was difficult.
It was not until his junior year in high school, when a teacher finally recognized his potential, that he discovered he was not “dumb,” Smith said.
“I had trouble academically and I had no one who could help,” said Smith. “No one was there to help me with homework or anything I could not understand. That’s one of the reasons why I like this program because I know these kids are in the same situation.”
Smith mentors through a number of means. Whether it is a trip to In-and-Out Burger, a game of hybrid lacrosse and tennis, a Warriors basketball game or Sharks hockey game, Smith tailors his mentoring to the mentee.
“We are generations apart, but there is just something unique about it,” said Smith. “There is no reason to stop. I love doing it.”
Stephanie Sosa My name is Stephanie Sosa and I am twenty years old. I identify myself as a young Latina woman. I graduated from Petaluma High School in 2016. I became actively involved in many extra curriculum activities throughout my high school years such as clubs and within my community. In high school, I joined the Latino Club, the MECHA Club, and the Bilingual Student Ambassador Club. Outside of school, I participated in dancing. I joined the St. Vincent Church folkloric dance group when I was ten years old and continued through my high school years. I was also involved with the Petaluma Youth Commission that was part of the Petaluma City Council. I became a family member of Mentor Me when I was in high school and I have to say, I am very thankful and grateful that I was able to become part of this wonderful experience. I continued my education by becoming the first generation in my family to go to college and am attending Sonoma State University as a Sociology major. I am a former staff member of Mentor Me. I have an internship that is called Testimonio’s Project with Latino Service Providers. I hope to explore the many pathways that come with being a sociology major and find myself working for a passionate job where I can give back to my community and inspire other Latina women to thrive and be excellent in life.