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Mentoring Pays Dividends – a Mentor Reflects on Connecting

I am a retired “people” person who is very active with church work, children, grandchildren, photography, tennis, investments, and travel. I have been a lifelong learner and am still learning. I consider education one of the keys to success in life and the ability to help young people reach their potential as a great opportunity and privilege. In 2010 a tennis friend of mine mentioned Take Stock in Children. I asked for more information and he told me how much he enjoyed the mentoring, the successes he had in helping students prepare for college and the friends he had made. He then said, Take Stock In Children needed volunteers to be mentors for local high school students.

After learning about the great work Take Stock does in Palm Beach County and in every county all over Florida helping high potential, low income students get the resources they need to graduate from high school and go on to college, I decided to become a mentor.

My first mentee in 2010 was Jason Kerr. I was very nervous before our first meeting. Would I be able to help? Would I be able to connect, develop rapport and inspire Jason to do his best? Of course I had taken TSIC training, read their mentoring program materials for goal setting, establishing accountability, and maintaining respect. I also had met TSIC leadership and was impressed with their experience and quality. But …. would I be able to turn their plans into progress for a millennial several generations out of my era?

One of the first things I learned about Jason as we began to get to know one another was he was a huge Miami Heat fan. He was a collector of Nike tennis shoes and actually did a little online business buying and selling them at unbelievable prices. The biggest shock to me was when he told me – and he was a sophomore – that he had never cracked a book and his GPA was 2.2.

I told him about growing up in the hills of Tennessee in a house without running water or electricity, about building my self-image and confidence by studying hard and graduating valedictorian of my senior class of 136. That led to a work study scholarship to the University of Tennessee, and I dropped out after three years to join the Marine Corps. While in service I got married, and my wife and I had our first daughter. I told him everybody thought that was the end of my college career but it wasn’t. We struggled, but I went back to UT and won a Bachelor’s in Engineering and then a master’s at UF. I told Jason progress in life seldom comes in a straight line. Never give up!

In order to develop even more rapport with Jason, I began watching the Heat regularly. Each week we would discuss all the stats and prospects for the playoffs. My wife began watching too! Although she has never shown any passion for sports, she soon became a Heat fan. She is now rabid about “her” Heat, and we now watch every game. She knows all the competing teams, players, and stats far better than I.

I encouraged Jason to start studying at least an hour a night. We talked about time management and how much time could be wasted without a plan and discipline. I told him the story of my kids going to summer school and taking classes that would allow them to take AP classes or have time for extracurricular activities like band, the school paper or drama. He got an after school job at LIDS. He decided to study Nursing at Palm Beach State College. His grades started coming up. He graduated with a 2.9 GPA.

After graduation Jason enrolled in Nursing at PBSC and took a job at the Cheesecake Factory. We still get together 2-3 times a year. Jason started out as a busboy. He is a fast learner, good worker, outgoing and energetic. Before long he was given the opportunity to be a baker and learned to make all the specialty desserts. He works thirty hours a week and goes to school although at a reduced course load. The first time we met him last year for lunch he was all excited. He had bought himself a new Volkswagen. The next time last year when Jason met my wife and I for lunch he surprised us again. He brought his new girlfriend. She was cute, friendly and ambitious and also a student at PBSC. My wife and I were really impressed with how my young mentee was growing up.

A few days after Thanksgiving I got a text from Jason inviting me to lunch. He wanted to discuss investments. I was happy. I love to talk about investments and the stock market. I know what you’re thinking. The stock market is no place for a young guy starting out. But Jason had figured out that bank deposits, CDs and money market accounts paid nothing and wanted an introduction to investing. Jason had also switched to a Business Accounting major and would get his AA degree in the spring. I asked him about his girlfriend, and he said she had dumped him. Why? Because he wasn’t getting through college fast enough!

But the good news is Jason has moved up to bartender at work and learned how to make all the drinks. Like I said, success rarely comes in a straight line: he was working about 30 hours a week, not making much progress in his business program when a friend told him about Palm Beach State’s Automotive Service Technology Career Certificate Program. Jason jumped at the opportunity to take the certificate course and work at a dealership at the same time. He began to excel at the technical course work and loved the hands on part. At the dealership, they started him out doing oil changes and there was a lot of sitting around while they kept the experienced techs busy. He wasn’t too happy until he finished at PBSC and moved to another dealership and began removing and installing entire engines on warranty. He was now growing in confidence and making a decent living.

As time moved on Jason stayed busy, found a new girlfriend, fell in love, started a family and began thinking about the next step up in his career. He had his eye on a service advisor position. This would be a full-time job working with the customers and best of all it comes with a salary and benefits which a family man needs. Family man indeed! Jason and Gabby welcomed Olivia into their home in October 2021.

I contacted Jason recently.to get an update. He sounded so excited. He changed dealerships several months ago and got his service advisor position and “Olivia is getting so big!” This sounds like success to me but something tells me Jason isn’t done yet.

By the way as I write this my wife is waiting for me to come watch the Heat with her. In the meantime this 82-year-old is very happy with his 30-year-old friend who is proving that even today one can still achieve the American dream.

Mentoring is a key component of the success of every participant in the Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Program, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. Each year more than 350 mentors participate in the program. If you would like to contribute as a mentor, please contact Kimberly Briard at KBriard@takestockpalmbeach.org.


Bill Brohawn is a mentor with the Take Stock in Children program.

A LEAP Ahead for Hearing-Impaired Students

One of the challenges teenagers who are deaf and hard of hearing frequently face is connecting and interacting with other teens with hearing loss. If not addressed, that challenge can lead to isolation and a lack of self-confidence. A new program of The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) called LEAP (Leadership Experiences and Adventure Program), established with the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, helps high school students who use Listening and Spoken Language connect virtually with peers just like them. The program is led by adults who are deaf and are achieving their potential. LEAP helps teens become more self-aware while acquiring capacity in leadership, self-advocacy, technology, work and life skills. Students who participate in LEAP learn more about themselves and their personal strengths and are excited to see how they can use their strengths to develop and achieve their future goals.

AG Bell has hosted three LEAP sessions so far this year in May, July, and September. To date, 87 students registered for LEAP from 21 different states and 6 different countries. Each session offered 5 ½ hours of engaging and informative interaction led by Catharine McNally, AG Bell’s past president, as well as six additional facilitators who are graduates of the long-standing LOFT (Leadership Opportunities for Teens) program, which strengthens leadership potential in students with hearing loss. Participants worked with facilitators in small group sessions where they connected with each other on a more personal level, and more easily engaged in self-exploration and discussion.

Guest speaker Ceil Weatherman, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, used the students’
“homework” of completing the Clifton Strengths Assessment to highlight the strengths of each student and the value that each brings to social, education and work environments. LEAP teens learned that people in their “strength zones” experience positive energy, are more likely to achieve their goals, are more confident, perform better at work, experience less stress and have more positive moments. Keeping their strengths in mind, the teens explored how their personal strengths can help them use technology more effectively, advocate more efficiently and plan for the future.

At the end of the two-day, virtual session, students were asked to share what they learned. Here is what a few of the students shared:

 “I learned when a person uses his Clifton Strengths, he is more successful at work and/or school.” (Anonymous)

 “One thing I plan to do differently now that I have done LEAP is advocate for myself more.” (Rachel, age 16)

 “[The Mentors] were amazing and showed us how we can be successful in the future.” (Anonymous)

 “I just wanted to thank AG Bell for choosing me for this LEAP program because it made me a better person and gave me a confidence to embrace my hearing loss.” (Leah, age 17)

“I learned that I am not alone in my hearing loss journey and that to get the best experiences I apply my values and strengths in everything I do in life.” (Anonymous)

“How to advocate for myself.” (Paul, age 17)

“I plan to use my hearing equipment in different and more creative ways.” (Anonymous)

“Use our strengths to discover our interests.” (Kiana, age 15)

“[I’m] inspired to pursue my future career by using my strengths.” (Nathan, age 15)

Through the generosity of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and other supporters, LEAP is offered free of charge to high school students. Six sessions will be scheduled throughout 2022, offered every other month. AG Bell offers placement of up to 50 students per session with a goal of 350 total participants. For more information and to apply to attend LEAP, please visit www.AGBellLEAP.com or email us at LEAP@agbell.org.


Julie Schulte is the Teen Programs Coordinator for the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Medical Mentorship: Creating Space at Dalhousie

The following article first appeared on Dalhousie University’s blog site of the Global Health Office and is shared with permission.

Kwe’! My name is Mercedes Stemm, and I’m a Mi’kmaq woman born and raised in Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation, New Brunswick. I’m in my last year of my Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Indigenous Studies. Since 2019, I have been the Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine (IHIM) Program within the Global Health Office. In my position, I am part of many different projects, events, committees, and initiatives. In addition, I had the wonderful opportunity to create my own program. Upon arriving at the Global Health Office, the Director asked me what I believe Indigenous students interested in medicine need to succeed at Dalhousie. I was tasked to explore ideas about potential new supports and programs. After discussions with colleagues and friends, a proposal was developed to create a mentorship program. The program proposed to connect Indigenous medical and health professional students with Indigenous undergraduate students aspiring to become health professionals. After a year of planning, we were able to pilot this program in September 2020 with the Bachelor of Medical Sciences program and in collaboration with PLANS (Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians).

This pilot mentorship program is part of a larger collaboration between Dalhousie University and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF). The Foundation is based in Florida but has many ties to Nova Scotia. Last year it partnered with Dalhousie on a matching gifts program to help Indigenous and Black Nova Scotian students pursue studies in health care through pathways programs. It committed to match up to $1 million in donations to Dalhousie over five years. This collaboration has allowed Dalhousie University to advance our commitment to ensuring Indigenous and African Nova Scotian students participate in education and careers in the health professions.

The creation of this Pilot Mentorship Program is to establish and enhance connections for Black and Indigenous students with other Black and Indigenous students, faculty, and/or professionals by providing guidance through academic and professional development. Increased supports have been shown to improve completion rates of programs, decrease student stress levels, and increase self-efficacy.

The main purpose of this program is to reduce and eliminate barriers to underrepresented students exploring their full potential as learners. The Faculty of Medicine was responsible for organizing the mentorship match between the student/mentee and mentor. Student mentees who were matched with a mentor were then encouraged to take leadership in the relationship to ensure that they were able to get the most value from their experience.

The pilot program consists of five undergraduate Bachelor of Medical Sciences students in their first or second year of study. They were matched with mentors in their last year of their Medical Science degree, medical students, and graduate students. The structure of the program consists of relationship building, skill-building through workshops, and celebration through events. Workshops do not only focus on skills development, but also cultural knowledge and engagement. The program has space for online discussions and reflections, and students have one-on-one time, both with mentors and program coordinators, to discuss topics and ask questions.

The overall goal of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Mentorship program is to increase representation of Indigenous students in medicine through recruitment, community collaboration, and partnership. This mentorship program will help achieve those goals. Our hope is that students will come out of the program with lifelong connections, knowledge, and supports.

Read more about Dalhousie’s Medical Mentorship programs at the following links:

Medical Mentorship Part 1: Ottawa Supports Indigenous Student Success

Medical Mentorship Part 2: Student Perspective

Medical Mentorship Part 4: Professional and Cultural Connections


Mercedes Stemm is Program Assistant for the Indigenous Health in Medicine Program at Dalhousie University

Mentorship Matters. Give, Receive and Give Again

This post originally appeared on the Helios Education Foundation blog.

Although the holiday season has ended and we have turned the page on another year, our opportunity to give goes on. 

January is National Mentoring Month, a time on the calendar to honor the life-long impact that a knowledgeable and committed mentor can have upon a student. 

When an individual decides to become a mentor there is no magic formula for success or, even, a guarantee of accomplishment. There is, however, the pride you feel when your mentee takes on a challenge with conviction; the fulfillment of purpose that confirms your investment of time and energy enabled your mentee to reach beyond what she originally set out to accomplish, and the resulting successes that then fuel her greater purpose. 

Helios Education Foundation is proud to support partners who share this commitment and incorporate mentoring into their student support programs. In Arizona, our partner Be A Leader Foundation, works to increase the number of college-going students in Arizona by providing them with the tools and resources needed to become college bound, focused and prepared through leadership training and mentoring.  Peer mentors are matched with college-bound students to help take the necessary steps to enter and complete postsecondary education.  For example, mentors help students prepare and take the ACT or SAT, complete college applications, identify and apply for scholarships, and complete the FAFSA. 

Take Stock in Children, a Florida-based partner, identifies high potential, low-income middle-school students and engages them in a success program that ultimately leads to a college scholarship. Upon selection, students and their parents or guardians sign contracts agreeing to fulfill specific performance standards. Students are held to high expectations and with the guidance of advocates and their mentors are accountable for their own success in the program. To be awarded their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime- and drug-free, and meet with their mentors once a week.

Having benefited from the guidance and friendship of a mentor, I know first-hand the influence he has had on my life. As I started my career, my mentor not only took time to explain the protocol of a professional work environment, he taught me numerous intangible lessons – lessons that I’ve passed on to others. It’s those character-building lessons that have shaped my professional life, and I am deeply appreciative of them and of him.   

Again, although the holiday season has ended, we can still give. 

If you can, take the time to mentor a high school student, a college student, or a young professional. The impact you will have on that one individual, and the numerous people he will influence in the future, is immeasurable. That’s an accomplishment worth honoring all month long. 

Receive the Helios Education Foundation newsletter to learn more about our work in both Arizona and Florida. Sign up here. 

Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization, cultivating strong community relationships and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida for the Foundation. He brings more than 25 years of public and private professional experience to his leadership role with the Foundation. Prior to his role at Helios, he served as President of Valley of the Sun United Way, where he led a community-wide fundraising effort approaching $50 million.