The Road Home
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The Road Home

Imagine LA: May Mentor of the Month

Brenda

Perseverance is at the heart of our families’ — and our mentors’ success! Both mentor and mentee must invest time and effort in their relationship, be highly communicative, show vulnerability, and work to bridge any differences so they might grow together. This isn’t easy. Despite the challenges, Brenda Imes, a three-time Imagine LA Mentor, never gave up. After her first two matches didn’t work out, her third time was a charm.

Brenda was matched with Sarina, a mom of three living in East LA, on March 19, 2020 — Imagine LA’s last day in the office before going into lockdown. While the pandemic threw a major wrench into their plans, Brenda and Sarina managed to build a strong connection, grounded in mutual respect and Sarina’s desire to build a better life for herself and her children.

One area they found great success in was Sarina’s finances. While budgeting is often not fun, Brenda sat virtually shoulder-to-shoulder with Sarina, helping her understand how her income and expenses influence the creation of a budget. “It really opened her eyes to her spending habits,” recalled Brenda, beaming with pride. “Then, it became kind of a game! She kept asking, ‘Where can I save more? I found another one!’ It was an honor to help her access tools and knowledge that she can use for the rest of her life.

But mentorship is also deeply relational, and Brenda related to Sarina personally as a mother. Brenda also has a son and spent hours with Sarina processing the roller coaster of parenthood and Sarina’s challenges keeping her kids safe and on the right path. Brenda is also especially proud of this: Sarina’s perseverance raising a teenage son and resilience through his health and social challenges. “She’s such a loving mother and hard worker,” Brenda said. “Even as the world says, ‘No,’ she looks for a way to find ‘Yes’ and support her family.”

The main lesson Brenda takes away from her experience as a mentor is this: “We’ve got to meet people where they are. Whatever mentors may have in their heads as to where mentees could be, it’s important to keep in mind where they are in their lives, especially with financial education. It is difficult to hold back and not push too hard, but you have to let people learn.”

She also stressed how tough it was for Sarina to navigate the social benefits system and applauded Imagine LA’s work with the USC Price Center to show how expensive it is to be poor. “This system isn’t working for working families,” she declared. “We need to equip families like Sarina with better tools and more user-friendly systems, so they have a chance of actually overcoming the chips stacked against them.” Thank you, Brenda, for never giving up on your mission to help others!

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