“I have been blessed to encounter people in both personal and professional spaces who have taken me under their wing to impart their knowledge as well as expose me to new and exciting opportunities,” says Alicia Criado, a Thurgood Marshall Academy’s mentors for the 2014-15 school year. Now in her third year as a TMA mentor, it is Alicia who is sharing her path to professional success with students, helping them navigate their own process of college and career planning.
Having previously mentored middle and high school, as well as college students in her native California, Alicia has observed that the mentoring process “naturally has significant positive effects for youth – they tend to present better attitudes and behaviors at school, are less likely to drop out, and more likely to attend college than their counterparts” who do not have positive adult role models. She particularly enjoys mentoring high school-age students because this a pivotal period in a person’s life, “filled with critical decisions that can affect the trajectory of one’s entire life. As a mentor, I feel as though one of my duties is to help ensure a young person is making as many good decisions as possible.”
This year, Alicia’s mentee is senior Kaylin Edmonds. In her relationship with Kaylin, Alicia finds that one of the most valuable things she brings “to the table [as a mentor] is that I am able to show her that it is possible to develop a friendship with someone who is almost twice her age.” She believes that having a mentor and friend who can share their trajectory to professional success is critical in a globally competitive city such as D.C. Students, she explains, need the “unbiased advice and guidance” that a mentor brings to the relationship.
This type of guidance is particularly important for seniors like Kaylin: thanks to Alicia’s mentorship, Kaylin has been able to get answers to many of the tough questions about college, including “how I went about selecting a college to attend and how my degrees have helped me get the jobs I have held since graduating.” Alicia has also been able “to share strategies and tips for how to negotiate getting more financial assistance and scholarships from universities,” which can be critical to ensuring that students are able to remain enrolled in college and earn the benefits of a bachelor’s degree.
But it’s not just the students who have the opportunity to grow and learn from the Mentor Program – the benefits extend to the mentors themselves: Alicia enjoys having “someone to help keep [me] connected and accountable to [my] local community.”