By J.R. Wise
Reflecting on what has made mentoring meaningful for me, I see three key traits that form a strong meaningful mentor relationship: (1) Trust; (2) Faith in the protégé; and (3) Compassion. Two of the most meaningful mentors in my life help illustrate the importance of these traits!
Trust. The first mentor (outside of my immediate family) I had in my life is a man I call my uncle, Charles Thom (“Chuckie”). Chuckie entered my life as one of my father’s troops in the USMC. I was four at the time. As my father’s subordinate, Chuckie learned to respect my father. My father encouraged Chuckie to adopt leadership roles and become a role model in the community. When my father was deployed, he trusted Chuckie enough to move in with our family to look after my mother, brother, and me. When Chuckie moved in, I initially thought that he was merely my greatest adversary in “Duck Hunt.” However, as time passed, Chuckie became my soccer coach, my best friend, and to this day, my first mentor. The trust between Chuckie and me is infinite. Because of that trust, there has been immeasurable growth in our mentor relationship. Chuckie is a life coach. I have trusted him to teach me social development, sportsmanship, and although this is a new endeavor for both of us, dining etiquette. Without this trust, Chuckie and I would not have a successful mentor relationship. Without the trust between my father and Chuckie, Chuckie would not have learned to become a mentor. Without trust, I would not be a third generation mentee; I look forward to mentoring the fourth generation in our chain.
Faith. The most powerful mentor in my life is Barbara Kalisuch (“Ms. K”). Ms. K was a high school teacher at Fallbrook Union High School. She taught the Advancement via Individual Determination course (AVID). Each year in high school, Ms. K had the incredible ability to turn 30-40 students from underrepresented/underprivileged backgrounds into successful and ambitious students. I was one of her students. What made the relationship between Ms. K and me so powerful is the simple fact that she believed in me. More importantly, she refused to let me not believe in myself and in my potential. No matter how grim a situation and no matter how rebellious I became, Ms. K never stopped encouraging me. Because she had faith in me and encouraged me to have faith in myself, I contribute my academic success completely to Ms. K. Without her steadfast faith, I would be neither a first generation college graduate nor an excelling law student. The mentor relationship I share with Ms. K grew out of a student-teacher relationship. The mentoring I do with high school and undergraduate students is a reflection of that mentoring relationship. Mentoring for high school students and community service projects, I reflect the same faith on to my mentees and on all of my peers.
Compassion. The most important common denominator in the mentorships I have with Chuckie and Ms. K is compassion. Only, a compassionate mentor can embrace and embody true mentorship. When a mentee says, “I can’t.” — A compassionate mentor says, “You can.” When a mentee says, “I lost.” — A compassionate mentor says, “You’ve won.” When a mentee says, “I give up!” — A compassionate mentor says, “Try one more time.”
Trust. Faith in the protege. Compassion. When each element is present there is a better chance for a successful and meaningful mentorship. When a meaningful mentorship exists, new generations of mentors are born.