Rachel, how long have you been a mentor with Seedling, and how did you hear about us?
“This is my fourth year as a Seedling mentor (with the same mentee!). The organization has been on my radar since 2011, when I read an Austin Business Journal piece featuring the city’s Profiles in Power and Women of Influence award winners. One of the recipients was a mentor with the Seedling Foundation.”
“I can’t remember what her quote was, but whatever she said about the Seedling Foundation piqued my interest. I immediately googled Seedling, bookmarked the website, and promised myself that I’d apply.”
What inspired you to speak out for Seedling?
“I think it’s important for mentors not only to be advocates for their mentees but also to advocate for the Seedling Foundation itself whenever possible. For instance, I may never have learned about the program if not for reading another mentor’s testimonial in the newspaper. Others may not have become Seedling mentors if not for hearing and reading my testimonials. Whatever the opportunity is — whether it’s talking about Seedling to your Toastmasters group, telling a friend over coffee or writing a letter to the editor — I think it’s important that we, as mentors, share our stories and experiences to help grow the organization.”
Tell us a little about your mentee and your experience as a mentor.
“For years, my mentee Katelyn had been struggling with reading. She repeated the second grade and by the end of third grade was still having difficulty reading at a first grade level. Each time we read together or reviewed flashcards, she seemed to grow more and more frustrated. Then, a miracle happened! During the summer between third and fourth grade, a benevolent remedial reading teacher took Katelyn under her wing and visited her at home regularly to teach her how to read. When Katelyn and I met again for fourth grade, her entire demeanor had shifted from downcast to confident. I’ll always remember the time she practically skipped to lunch, spelling test in hand, to proudly show me the bright red A- plastered on top. It was the first A she had ever received!”
“I may not have showed up on summer days to teach her how to read — for one, Seedling’s site-based model doesn’t allow it! — But I know I do play a part in Katelyn’s story. (As she does in mine.) To me, this story is a reminder that success really does take a village. None of us got to where we are by ourselves; instead, by synchronicity, when we need help, the right support system will appear. We’ll meet the right person, or read the right article or stumble upon the right opportunity. I’m proud to be part of Katelyn’s village and grateful for the support of Seedling’s amazing directors and my fabulous mentor director, Marvin Itzep.”
What other forms of advocacy have you pursued for Katelyn?
“This year, I’ve had the privilege of participating in the city-sponsored program, CityWorks Academy, a 12-week program that gives Austinites an inside look at Austin’s government by introducing us to city officials and department heads, and allowing us to tour the departments. Not only has the program helped me to grow as an informed citizen, but I’ve also been able to take some of the information I’ve learned to help my mentee and her school.”
“Many programs are city-sponsored and on a first-come, first-served basis, so schools need only apply to be considered for small grants to cover school gardens, awards programs for students who arrive to school on time, and economic development initiatives. That said, I know I never would have learned about these resources were I not enrolled in CityWorks Academy. I urge anyone who’s interested to apply.”
In addition to being an independent business owner, Rachel is a proud mentor and advocate for the Seedling Mentor Program, and loves to travel in her spare time!