Andrew Gilchrist

It’s an amazing experience. Jaden inspires me and it’s additionally inspiring to know that I inspire Jaden as well.

Date you became a mentor:
September 2013

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
I wanted to give something back to the community I lived in.

What is it like to be a mentor?
It’s an amazing experience.  Jaden inspires me, and it’s additionally inspiring to  know that I inspire Jaden as well.

Share your most memorable moment as a mentor.
When we were at a Yankees game, Jaden turned to me and told me, “Andy, I like you man, I love hanging out with you.”  On the way back from the game on the subway, Jaden fell asleep on my shoulder.  I just about cried.

How has your mentee transformed in your time together?
Jaden is a young man now.  He listens to me and looks up to me in ways he never had before.

What advice would you offer to future mentors?
Listen to them and they will listen to you.

Farrah Celler

My advice is for those considering becoming a mentor, but who are still on the fence: Don’t overthink it. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to show up and be real.

Date you became a mentor:
August, 2013

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
I'd volunteered at CPNYC the previous year through New York Cares. I'd seen the forms for mentorship, and I guess the idea of getting involved on a deeper level appealed to me. I had some free time and mentoring seemed as good a way to use it as any. I'd done some work that was loosely based around mass incarceration during grad school, but CPNYC was coming at the issue from a novel angle (at least it seemed that way to me): working directly with the children it affects from a young age to help them cope with the emotional fallout, and to reduce the stigma around having an incarcerated parent.

What is it like to be a mentor?
Humbling, definitely humbling. And also incredibly rewarding. It sounds cliche, but I feel that I've benefitted and grown from this experience just as much as my mentee has. I've become close, not just with my mentee, but with her mother and sister as well. I've been lucky enough to witness and share in the radical transformations they've gone through these past few years, both as individuals and as a family.

Share your most memorable moment as a mentor.
It's hard to pick one; there have been so many. This past spring, her mother showed her and her sister a video of their father (who passed away) and her when the two of them were young, before the girls were born. Being there, seeing these amazing, resilient kids get to reconnect with some part of their past, and their father was probably the most bittersweet moment I've ever witnessed. I feel grateful to have become close enough with my mentee and her family to share in moments like that.

How has your mentee transformed in your time together?
Well, it's been three years since we’ve met, so I've seen her grow in all the ways that young people do. She's become a deeply thoughtful and compassionate person. It's a process, of course, but she's learning to deal with and talk about difficult feelings in a way that absolutely astounds me. I don't presume to take credit for this change, but I'm lucky enough to have been around as it’s taken place.

What advice would you offer to future mentors?
My advice is for those considering becoming a mentor, but who are still on the fence: Don't overthink it. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to show up and be real.

Jeff Utz

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When I first met my mentee, he was getting in fights at school. He doesn’t do that anymore. He does a good job of getting and staying in line, and has become a leader with the other kids.

Date you became a mentor:  March 2012

Brief Bio:  I grew up in northeast PA. I went to the University of Scranton where I majored in biology and psychobiology. After that, I attended Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, studying medicine and neuroscience. I was a pediatric resident in Lansing, MI. Following that, I did some research at Hahnemann University, and then took a job as a software engineer at Juno Online Services in Times Square. Five years later, I entered the NYC Department of Education as a teaching fellow. I now live in Brooklyn and am a middle school science teacher and chess coach at IS 223 - The Montauk and a robotics coach at PS 256.

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
I had a positive experience as a mentor in a different program. The student aged out, and I wished to be a mentor again. CPNYC was located about 4 blocks from me, and I saw that I could really help one of their kids.

What is it like to be a mentor?
It has always been a lot of fun. It is also a big responsibility, both because I am responsible for a child’s well-being and because I want to make sure that I am a good role model for my mentee.

Share your most memorable moment as a mentor.
I took my mentee to Philadelphia where we had lunch with my godmother and some friends from medical school, went to the Franklin Institute and then hung out in fountains around City Hall. As we got back on the bus, my mentee said, “When are we coming back?” I knew then that he had a good day.

How has your mentee transformed in your time together?
He has matured a lot. When I first met him, he was getting in fights at school a lot. He doesn’t do that anymore. He does a good job of getting and staying in line, and has become a leader with the other kids.

What advice would you offer to future mentors?

  • The biggest thing you will ever give your mentee is your time and attention. Not things.

  • Kids are almost always thirsty and hungry. You may want to bring some snacks and drinks or get them on the way there.

  • The kids in the program have often had a lot of disappointments with adults not being there. Make sure you always show up when you are supposed to be with them and meet your commitments with them. When you say you are going to do something, do it.

  • Be yourself.

  • Let your mentee be himself or herself and meet your mentee where he/she is.

  • Make sure your time together is time together. No distractions like electronics.

  • Listen to your mentee.

  • Do things your mentee likes to do, things you like to do and things both of you like to do.

  • Be a positive role model.

  • Remember that the relationship is about you and your mentee. It is not about the crimes that the parents committed, about the child’s family or how the child is doing in school. All of these things are important, but the focus is on the kid.

  • Always make get caregiver’s permission before doing anything and keep them informed

  • Have fun!

Heidi Schmitt

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The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others
— Ghandi

Date you became a mentor:
April 2011

What inspired you to get involved with CPNYC?
Ghandi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  To me, that is the epitome of what it means to be a mentor at CPNYC.  I have always been involved in volunteering projects of one kind or another, but I was looking for something that would make a significant impact and would be a long-lasting commitment.  Mentoring a child at CPNYC was the perfect fit for me.

What is it like to be a mentor?
Wonderful.  Scary.  Exciting.  Vexing.  Fun.  Frustrating.  Comforting.  
There is no one word to describe what it is like to be a mentor.  There are good moments and bad moments - often within the same visit!  But it is such a fulfilling experience for me, and I wouldn’t trade the time I spend with my mentee for anything.  

Share your most memorable moment as a mentor.
For me, my favorite moment with my mentee was when my retired parents were visiting from Florida, and she came over to have dinner with us.  Both of my parents adored her, and the feeling was mutual.  My father is a kind man but not much of a talker, and my mentee engaged him in conversation easily - way more easily that I have been able to!   My mother is an avid gardener, and she was planting some flowers for me in my backyard.  My mentee helped her, and you could tell that they both enjoyed the experience greatly.  Watching her with my parents was very special, because I love all three of them very much, and it was so wonderful to have my “family” all together.  

How has your mentee transformed in your time together?
She has really grown up to be a young woman who is just a delight to be around.  She was a little shy when we first started meeting, but she has grown to open up to me..  I truly do consider her to be part of my family, and I hope she will continue to trust me and confide in me as she gets older.  

What advice would you offer to future mentors?
Hang in there.  Enjoy it.  Be committed and consistent.  And most of all - remember that you’re only going to get one go around in life, and you get the most out of it by making genuine connections to and serving those around you.