As I filed away the last vestiges of the 2018 Girls Summer Leadership Program (GSLP) this summer, I embarked on one of my final (and favorite) tasks: writing thank you notes to each of the High School Mentors.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, mentorship is a key element of GSLP. Our multi-layered network is designed to be aspirational: High School Mentors connect with participants and guide them through workshops; Young Alum Mentors lead each teams; and Professional Mentors, all Dana Hall alumnae, share the participants’ daily experiences via blog. The system creates connections and a strong support network for each girl as she prepares for her transition to high school.
When the program began in 2011, I knew the High School Mentors would be a valuable component of the program. As Dana Hall student leaders and peer educators, they offer the experience of their recent transition to high school, their leadership training, not to mention their “cool factor.” However, I’ve learned over the years that these young women do so much more: they breathe life into the program, as they embody what makes Dana Hall so special, and pass that on to the participants.
As I write their thank you notes, I look back on the participants’ feedback so I can share specific praise. The comments are peppered with all the descriptors I hope for: encouraging, positive, outgoing, friendly, inclusive.
In addition, the feedback contains little gems that are so authentically 14-year-old in their candor and expression:
“L & A were super sweet and funny even with little sleep.”
“C & L were big influences – they were who I looked up to, and they were literally like my parents.”
And then, the good stuff…
“A & M were very open in helping me express my true self.”
“My connection with D started from the first day and I think will continue… She helped me grow and learn more about myself and others.”
“I could tell K & A were proud of us when we spoke up. If I ever had a problem or question, I felt comfortable talking to them which is very important. In the future if I have any questions about high school I know I can talk to them.”
“C, K & M taught everyone that you can be who you wanted to be – and not what someone else wants you to be – and fight for what you want.”
Reading this earnest feedback fills me with gratitude. These mentors dedicate a week of their summer to help bring the magic of Dana Hall to a group of girls who may not otherwise experience it. They also make a lasting impact. The testimonials demonstrate how powerful it can be to have someone see you for who you are, how confidence-inspiring it is when someone recognizes your strengths and your potential and names it, and how a mentor’s support and encouragement can inspire you to believe in yourself and your ability to grow beyond your comfort zone.
These thank you notes are a reminder of the power of mentors and inspire me to think, as I begin the school year, about how I can continue to cultivate this in the Dana Hall community.