Seedling Donors & Mentors Speak Out: Eyna Canales-Zarate

Eyna Canales-ZarateEyna Canales-Zarate is a woman who juggles many roles; wife, mother, grandmother, friend, professional, nonprofit board volunteer, charitable donor, and mentor.

She chooses to invest her time, talent and treasure in Seedling Foundation and we interviewed her recently to ask about her experience.

How did you get involved with Seedling and why?

“I have been a board member with Seedling since 2012 and a mentor since 2014.  I heard of the Foundation several years ago, and was intrigued by its mission. I also discovered that many of the children served needed bilingual mentors. In 2012, one of the board members called me and asked if I would be interested in joining the board. It was not the best time for me since I was providing end of life care for my ailing mother, but after listening to the Executive Director speak so passionately about Seedling, I had to get involved. Seedling appealed to me because I could see tangible results of a mentor in a child’s life through its regular evaluations, and the ability to make a difference in a child’s life is huge.”

Do you donate to Seedling Foundation?

“Yes! I donate to Seedling Foundation, as well as working on its board and as a mentor.  The mission and the results of the work that Seedling’s mentor program accomplishes draws me to contribute more to this organization than any other.”

You are a board member, a donor and a mentor – How do you think those roles work hand in hand?

“Being a mentor keeps me connected to why and who we serve on the board. Oscar, my mentee inspires me to make sure that I give the best of myself to the organization that helps him succeed.”

Do you have a favorite story about your mentee?

“Oh yes! My mentee, Oscar, is a thoughtful and smart seven-year-old. One day I brought him a dinosaur coloring book and crayons. After we colored and talked, I asked him if he would like to have the coloring book and the crayons to take home. He said, “No, I cannot take any gifts.” I said, “Ok,” and I put it away, but would bring it on my subsequent visits for us to enjoy. Later in our mentoring, I noticed that he took some candy I brought him and put it in his pocket. I asked him if he was going to eat it later and he said, “I am going to share it with my brother.” I realized that a way for him to accept the book I wanted to give him for summer reading might be to offer it as something I would like him to read to his brother. It worked like a charm! When I presented the gift that way, he immediately said, “Yes,” and put it in his pocket. I was touched by his generosity and his obedience to his family’s rules.”

“Oscar moved to a school that is outside Seedling’s service area this year. With the help of the Seedling staff, I will go visit him there because I realize that he is important and the drive is not so important. He told me last June that he wanted me to visit him at this new school, but it took some time to set up the visits. He must have thought I have forgotten him. He will be very surprised when I show up, and I can’t wait to see him!”

What is your favorite Seedling event, and why?

Eyna & Juan Zarate“The Austin’s Fab Five gala, benefiting Seedling, is my favorite event. I like to be reminded of the successes that the organization has achieved through its generous donors, army of incomparable mentors, dedicated staff and committed board.  I invite my friends to come so I can share Seedling’s vision with them and offer them an opportunity to learn and get involved. Several of my guests have said they were “moved by Seedling’s mission,” and admitted they were previously completely unaware of what Seedling does and how it impacts children.”

Eyna, our readers can find your biography on the Seedling website, but is there something interesting or unique about you that you would like to share?

“I am not sure that this is either interesting or unique, but my parents were migrant workers during my childhood. I went to school in California six months out of the year; Texas three months out of the year; and Mexico during the summer.  My father was adamant that my brother and I should be completely bilingual and bi-cultural and worked very hard to make that happen. He and my mom were way ahead of their time!”

What do you like best about your work with the Foundation’s board?

“The board is passionate about the Seedling mission and we come to the table with the primary desire to help the children that depend on us. Seedling Mentor Program is like no other. From the amount of time that is spent in training; building a sense of confidence in its mentors, to the continuing guidance and direction Seedling’s mentor directors provide, the program and support is second to none. It is clear to me that the organization’s deep commitment to these often unidentified and under-served children is what drives this program and staff to excellence.”

What would you say to a person who was considering donating or mentoring for Seedling?

“There is no experience like directly impacting the life of a child. Being there for a child to listen, care, and be a positive force in his or her life is an opportunity to serve in a way that cannot adequately be measured. A mentor gives of their time to a child, and that child returns the gift many times over by inviting the mentor to share in his or her life.”

This entry was posted in Children in Poverty, Children of Incarcerated Parents, Mentoring, Mentors & Donors Speak Out, Site-Based Mentoring and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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