Advice from 1517: How to be a Great Mentee

We mentor a lot of younger people and students at 1517. It’s our way of paying it forward and cultivating the great community we have.

Today I got a really wonderful email update from a mentee, Katherine, that I thought exemplified why mentoring is fulfilling and showed why I’ll also want to work with her for the foreseeable future. She’s the founder of She Rises, a nonprofit that works with high school girls in the foster care system.

Here’s the note with my commentary in line:

Firstly, I hope you are doing very well since last we spoke in June of 2018. My sincerest apologies for the distance, but I wanted to come back to you with many updates about the ideas we exchanged over breakfast. I am happy to say that I have those updates to share and also, my favorite quotes from, “Zen and the Art of Making a Living.”

Katherine does a great job initiating contact. One thing that is different about being a mentor to someone is that it’s not a formal structured relationship (like being an investor or formal advisor to a company). And because we mentor a lot of people at 1517, we can’t possibly reach out regularly to all of them (that said, we do send a lot of “Hey, I was thinking of you…” emails). When a mentee reaches out, it shows that they are taking the initiative and value the relationship.

Katherine also references a book that I highly recommended over breakfast. She took the time to read it and reports back. Again, she’s signaling that the relationship between us is a valuable one.

I remember over breakfast I shared that we faced a few challenges: the transient nature of our population and the issues with having them meet with us consistently, the gender we wanted to focus on, and what services would help them the most. I’m very excited to share the ways in which we have tried to solve those issues and how far we’ve come since we were lucky enough to receive your support! To solve the challenge associated with their need to move due to foster care adoption or unfortunately capacity issues in emergency shelters, we have partnered with the YMCA and their efforts in Sarasota, FL for unaccompanied youth. This program has seen eight hundred minors filter through their services. For a greater understanding, here is their website for reference: YMCA SchoolHouse Link. We have directly partnered with this organization and all of our young women are referred to us by the director. This has helped us exponentially because we are able to work with at-risk youth that we know will be enrolled in a local high school for more than an academic year. Also, we have decided to work with young women ages 14 to 18 who are at the most critical age to learn professional and personal skills to help mitigate the negative impact their home life may have or the stress of foster care. This has been such a journey! First — we asked them what they needed and provided classes after that brainstorming session. We have been able to help our girls gain driver’s licenses and learn about sexual health with Planned Parenthood. For professional skill building, we’ve placed them in internships within the Sarasota Business community to help teach them about their desired profession. In Sarasota County, it is required to have community service hours in order to graduate from high school and we schedule their internships to meet this requirement. Our first internship placement was at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the City police. It was amazing to see these young women experience their dreams and have something unique to place on their resume. Since seeing you in June, and solidifying our program we have raise over $13,000 in financial donations from individual donors and gained in-kind donors for our office/meeting space, professional clothing for the girls, and catering our meetings so they have a warm meal.

Wow, hot damn is this an amazing update! Katherine reminds me of where they were at and the struggle in figuring out which way to go. Then she shows how she focused her organization, runs a pilot, started supporting young women, and raised donations. I love someone who gets to work and takes action, so this update is SUPER satisfying to read.

Our largest expenses is still our corporate Uber we use to transport the girls from high school to their internships, and our twice a month meetings.

Katherine mentions a concrete problem here. It turns out that I know someone who might be able to help her garner a partnership or discount, so I’m putting her in touch.

Lastly, we have changed our name to, She Rises in the state of Florida. We thought this would reflect our mission more clearly, I believe you may have received our newsletter with the name change! I hope we can increase our class size, and possibly one day achieve our 5 to 10 year goal by having a foster home of our own for young women.

And now Katherine is engaging me in her big dream. From above I can tell how serious she is because of all the work that she has put into the progress. So when she tells me about where she wants to go in the future, I can really feel what impact this success would have on the community she is serving.

Personally, Ms. Danielle, thank you so very much for, “Zen and the Art of Making a Living.” This book has changed my entire outlook on my professional life and having intentional actions that are meaningful to my mission. I realized we never discussed it over breakfast because I was so excited to speak to you about the nonprofit! However, here is a concept I love! “Your internal alarm is going off if you feel stuck, stifled, or bored with your current work situation. If your primary experience of work is a “have to” and not “want to” your internal alarm is going off.” This is so simple, but completely understandable! Every minute is so valuable and should be dedicated to a calling you feel compelled by. Thank you so very much for this recommendation, it is a lengthy read, but every sentence has so much value!

Now Katherine references her learnings from the book I recommended. She has actually helped me out a TON here without even knowing it. I read this book in 2002 and it was published in 1999 so I really have no idea how it holds up. I feared greatly that I was recommending something that was profound for me at the time, but might seen really dull or cheesy now. Apparently that’s not the case! This book put me on the path that I’m on today, so now that I know it helped her too, I’ll keep recommending it.

My apologies for the length of this email! Please no rush on a reply, I only wanted to give you a very overdue update on our progress. I hope you are having a wonderful year so far, I would love to possibly to set up a call in the future about the company you had in mind for used electronics? This would be so helpful for the girls if that might be a possibility and it would also be wonderful to say hello! :)

Hmm I have no idea what used electronics thing we talked about, but I want to talk to Katherine soon since she’s a wildly action oriented mentee, so we’re talking this week.

Again, I hope you are well Danielle, I can send a text soon to chat if you may be available in the coming weeks.

She knows me well that sometimes I’m in an email avalanche (but will always get back).

If there is anything I may do for you, please let me know. I look forward to the opportunity to catch up!

The very serendipitous thing is that before she sent this email I was thinking about her. I’ll be visiting Florida in late April so was going to reach out about a visit. She also let me know a fun fact (when we met last) that her father researches manatees. Turns out that I could hang out with her and her family and take a dip with those marine mammals. Who doesn’t love novel experiences? Sign me up!

Warmly and gratefully,

I feel that warmth and gratitude not just by what she’s saying but by what she’s doing!

This is an excellent example of what makes a mentee so wonderful to work with. It feels good to know that time spent with someone is increasing richness in their lives and that they are making the world better for others.

If you enjoyed learning about Katherine and She Rises, consider a donation to her organization too.