My name is Mary Hill and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson. My project is to create a new Mentoring towards College and Career (MCC) program that will initially focus on serving juniors and seniors in high school, matching them with an adult mentor who will help them navigate the road to graduation and successfully transition to college and career. My work has included recruiting and enrolling both volunteers and students, building relationships with Tucson high schools, curriculum design, and resource gathering. I am about to complete my eighth month of service, and as I reflect back on the past eight months, I feel like I have learned something new each day, whether it be about myself, working with youth, the non-profit world, or simply how to create a visually pleasing mailing. But any growth or success I have experienced at times feels eclipsed by failure.
Each month I complete a report, adding up the students we have served, the volunteers I have enrolled, the new systems I have created, and so on. I am busy every day and items often spill from my to-do list into the next week, but the steady work of capacity building does not always produce impressive numbers. When I first began my VISTA year, I had an ambitious goal for the number of students I wanted to match with a mentor in the MCC program, but each month that number steadily went down, adjusting for a multitude of external and internal factors. We were ultimately able to match several high school students by the end of the school year, but the gap between my goal and the present reality remains great.
The lesson here for me has been twofold: this year I have been reminded of the importance of being flexible, of constantly being able to shift my expectations, vision and goals, but I have also learned the importance of celebrating small accomplishments. Whenever I feel frustrated I remind myself of those students, mentors, and parents/guardians that have expressed to me their gratitude for our program. While the number of students helped may feel insignificant in terms of reporting and data, if at least one student explores a new career interest, applies to college, creates their first resume, or simply gains a little more clarity and confidence about their future because of the relationship they form with their mentor, I know I have made a difference.