As we celebrate the positive impact of mentoring relationships this National Mentoring Month, it’s a perfect time to spotlight how shared activities can build connection and create lasting memories for mentors and mentees. We know developing trust is essential in helping young people feel safe to be their authentic selves, and providing space for joy and discovery offers a natural way to boost a mentee’s comfort and confidence.
Kayla Weiss, a mentor with Connections Mentor, initially bonded with her mentee Jaytory over their mutual love of animals. While Jaytory avoided eye contact with unfamiliar adults, Kayla’s support of their ambition to become a veterinarian brought the pair closer together. Jaytory’s interest inspired Kayla to take them to the animal shelter where she volunteers. The outing laid the foundation for a trusting relationship — now one of the longest-running matches at Connections.
Watching Jaytory’s shyness subside as Kayla helped them to explore their passions has been a particularly moving experience for the mentor.
“Jaytory inspires and reminds me to focus on what is important in life,” Kayla notes. “It is really humbling when something that seems so simple to me makes such a difference to my mentee.”
When Barry Levey met his mentee Leo through Bigs & Littles NYC Mentoring, the pair immediately knew they had common interests — they were wearing matching Marvel t-shirts. In addition to being creative writers, performers, and superhero fans, Barry learned that Leo loves exploring the outdoors. To date, one of their most memorable experiences has been kayaking in Prospect Park.
Barry plans thoughtful activities based on Leo’s interests but also introduces his mentee to new experiences, helping Leo’s confidence and their relationship grow. After trying vegan food together, the pair now cook over Zoom. They’ve even attempted vegan Halloween-themed meals, like Day of the Dead skull pizzas and pumpkin quesadillas.
"Barry means so much to me,” Leo explains. “He helps me with school, listens to me, and teaches me so many cool things.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Arianna about her mentor Marlee Lopez. Marlee never imagined she’d be working with young people, but being a peer specialist to girls in EAC Network’s Alternatives for Youth program quickly became her passion. Marlee was nominated for a 2022 MENTOR of the Year award in part because of the inspiring way she uses activities to engage her mentees.
She and Arianna do vision boards and self-esteem exercises to promote self-growth, as well as some of the mentee's favorite activities, like drinking bubble tea at the mall. Marlee also created a journal for Arianna with quotes and prompts to aid her progress.
“Marlee wants her mentees to not only dream but achieve any goal they desire,” says Demeisha Owens, Program Manager at EAC Network. “She is a ray of sunlight for all of the girls she serves.”
For each mentor, shared activities of learning, creating, or simply having fun helped them earn the trust of their mentee and form a strong connection — as well as many fond memories.
Do you know a mentor who goes above and beyond for their mentee? Share their story and we’ll elevate it on the MENTOR NY blog, our social media, or in media pitches.