[box] Through the stories on this Over My Shoulder Foundation blog, we hope that you are inspired to think of mentoring as a dynamic experience. Mentorology, what we define as the art and science of mentoring, transcends any typified definition. Mentorology is, in fact, a living and ever-changing experiential phenomenon that can be applied anytime or anywhere.

From a budding spoken word poet and a cutting edge Boston fashion designer to leaders of international non-profits — the subjects of our stories and interviews have continued to amaze and inspire us in our work. We continue in that manner with today’s story by Sarah Binning, who was actually so empowered by her mentees at Teen Voices, an intensive journalism mentoring and leadership development program for teen girls in Boston, that she is now a full-time staff member! Her story is especially relevant now as graduation time makes us all think a little bit more about what’s ahead, or what has passed.

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder & Executive Director[/box]

Story by Sarah Binning

The spring of 2009, I found myself in a whirlwind. My junior year of college was coming to a close, and the illusive senior year was now just months away. People either batted their eyes sympathetically while wishing you luck during your final year, or they annoyingly ask “So what are you going to do with your life?” Senior year meant it was time to start thinking of the future.

I stared at myself in the mirror as asked, “What job would truly make you happy?” The answer came easily: Writing, editing or working for a magazine. The next question was a little more challenging: “How are you going to reach this goal? Where do you need to be?”

Could I, country bumpkin Sarah, leave the safe arms of Ohio? Did I have what it takes to survive life in the city? Life in a place where the sounds of cricket’s chirping was replaced by cars and trains?

That’s when I found Teen Voices, an organization that allowed me to combine my love for writing with my feminist voice. This magazine is creating social change through media. And not just with any media: girl-generated media. Suddenly, the idea of moving to a city wasn’t quite so scary. I packed up my bags, loaded the car and headed to Boston. But what I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t return home the same person.

Just a Few of the Many Girls Involved in Teen Voices

Teen Voices changed my life. More specifically, my mentees changed my life. While I truly loved every aspect of my internship, my favorite part was mentoring two fabulous teens, Anna-Cat and Malisa, through the process of writing a magazine feature article. Working with young women who have so much creativity, passion, and love to offer the world was truly inspiring.

Mentoring is more than just investing time in someone else’s life. Mentoring is more than just shaping tomorrow’s leaders. Mentoring is a learning opportunity that allows you to grow in ways you never dreamed possible. I mentor because the teen editors at Teen Voices have so much to teach me. And yeah, I’m sure that I’ve taught them some things along the way (or at least I hope I did), but these girls challenged me to learn new things.

In just six short weeks, here are some things my mentees taught me:

  1. How to walk from The Commons to Faneuil Hall without following the Freedom Trail. When I first moved here, I had no idea how to get anywhere. The Freedom Trail and T stations were the only ways I knew how to find places. If it wasn’t off one of those lines, forget it. Not happening. The girls challenged me to be adventurous and explore Boston.
  2. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. I remember the time I treated my mentees to ice cream. Balancing my cone while trying to find my wallet, plus the summer heat was just more than I could handle. My ice cream fell onto my foot and down inside my flats. I was so embarrassed. But as the girls tried to help me clean the stickiness off my foot, all we could do was laugh.
  3. The simple things are what matter most. Say, “Thank you.” Give credit wherever credit is due. Let those you care about know how you feel. Take fifteen minutes to ask how their day is going. It’s important to listen and recognize your mentee outside of the realm of work/business. This may seem like a no brainer. But sometime people just get too busy, or too caught up in their own world or the project at hand.
  4. There’s a difference between having a job you like and a job you love. I loved my time here so much that I came back as an AmeriCorps VISTA to serve at Teen Voices. And since then, I’ve been hired on staff. Seriously, I love my job. I want to go to work almost each and every day. I know the articles the teen editors are writing are making an impact on people’s lives. I know that their work, and inherently my work, is worthwhile!

To learn more about Teen Voices, please visit www.teenvoices.com

To apply to become an editorial mentor, visit http://www.teenvoices.com/2009/12/24/volunteer/

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