During my senior year of high school, I received the opportunity to take a class which allowed students to be paired up with mentors in the community, and shadow them at their jobs. I had the unique experience of doing my mentorship at the elementary school I attended for six years, and it was an amazing experience I learned a lot from. Here are ten reasons why doing a mentorship is great for students, and things I learned from my own.
Getting a mentorship
Before I get into the reasons why mentorships are awesome, I thought I would share how and why I chose mine. I originally thought I wanted to work in video production, which had been a huge interest of mine all through school. I didn't think there would be many opportunities to work with assistive technology in my town. Problem is, video production is highly visual, and it was difficult to find someone who wasn't apprehensive about having someone with low vision. However, after thinking for a while, I decided to talk to my elementary school technology teacher, who said they would be happy to have me shadow them in the classroom and work with all types of students. They knew I had low vision, and they were excellent about integrating me into the classroom both when I was a student and when they mentored me.
Working with a variety of people
The elementary school I worked with had a very diverse student population. There were students who spoke English as a second language, students with disabilities, students from other countries, and so much more. I got to learn a lot about different age groups and observe how they acted.
Investigating desired career
I knew going into this mentorship that I wanted to work in assistive technology, with the goal of developing tools for students with disabilities. By working with students who have disabilities and students without them in a computer lab setting, I learned a lot about how they use technology and how it can help them.
Practicing and applying skills
On many days, I was helping students learn to outline, create, and edit videos, a useful skill I had learned when I was their age. I was able to learn a surprising amount of information about video production while working with them, as well as pass down what I had learned to these students.
Being the oldest sibling, I have developed natural leadership qualities, and working with an elementary school really helped me to refine these skills. I learned a lot about how to explain topics and work with students, as well as learn to be a role model, especially for the 9-11 year old students.
Learning from the adults around you
I worked with a lot of fantastic teachers who were always willing to show me what they had learned in their years of experience. Some of the topics included technology usage, classroom management, behavior, and even inclusion of students with disabilities.
Looks great on a resumé
When I did college interviews, I was frequently asked about two things- my Microsoft Office certifications, and my mentorship. The colleges loved to see that I was applying what I had learned outside of the traditional classroom setting, and that I was really passionate about what I wanted to study. When I did an interview for a local college, they asked me even more questions about it, because most students chose to take AP classes instead of doing a mentorship, and they were more interested in knowing why I chose to work with an elementary school than what my final grade was in AP Psychology.
Because I had attended this elementary school for six years (kindergarten through fifth grade), I knew a lot of the teachers that I worked with. Since not much was known about how poor my eyesight was back in elementary school, a lot of my teachers were surprised to see how high achieving I was, even though my vision is so poor. I was able to educate the teachers on low vision and things I had learned over the years about my condition.
Learn workplace adaptions
Lucky for me, I am going into a career that embraces disabilities and accessibility. Working with the elementary school allowed me to understand what I can do easily and what may require additional assistance, as well as understand what assistive technology I could use to help me at my future job.
Learn things no class can offer
One of the questions I am asked somewhat frequently in college is if I took any classes related to my major in high school. Well, I am yet to encounter a class in a public high school about assistive technology, so I didn't have the opportunity to take any formal classes for my major. However, my mentorship helped prepare me for what I would study in college and teach me about my desired field. Mentorships are awesome for students going into less traditional majors.
A memorable experience
I absolutely loved working with everyone at my mentorship, and found myself more emotional at the fifth grade graduation than I was at my own graduation. I am so fortunate that I was able to attend my elementary school for an additional year and see everything that has changed, so I can keep these things in mind for my future career. I highly recommend that every student do a mentorship or job shadow in high school, at least once.