tSB is currently recruiting mentors for 2014-2015. Check out Daniel’s experience below, then learn more and apply here.
Written by tSB mentor Daniel Thompson
Mentor. A word with over fifty definitions if you search hard enough. In its most basic form, it means “A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Or in the transitive form, “to serve as a trusted counselor or teacher.” But strict definitions of a word can hardly begin to explain what it truly means to be a mentor.
I should start with a little background. I came to tSB at the suggestion of a coworker. You see, he had been involved with the Service board for a very long time. And when he spoke about it, you could see a physical change in his face. From a gruff, bearded, imposing figure of a man, to having a softness that came over his face that showed true and unfiltered love for this program. So he piqued my curiosity and with enough reminders, I inquired about serving as a snowboard instructor. What better way to get on the mountain for a few extra rides a year? I might even find a few friends along the way too! I had no idea what I was getting into. At his strong suggestion, he told me, that I should actually look into serving as a mentor. He looked directly in my eyes and said matter-of-factly, that it would change my life. A bold statement. Honestly, I smiled and said; “yeah sure man, I’ll check it out” not really buying in to what he was selling. And so it began.
After an interview and an agreement to submit to a background check, I was officially a “youth mentor” Still, I didn’t know what I was in for.
After a few dates of team building, get to know you nights and generalities, it came time to meet our youth. And for the first time in a long time, outside of a job interview, I was nervous. There had been a trust put in myself and the other mentors to become a part of the program, and more importantly, part of their lives. I was nervous because I didn’t know if I had what it took to offer them.
What followed was a whirlwind of nights learning about social justice. Learning about Transgender rights issues, knowing your legal rights, and Undoing Institutional Oppression. I saw and participated in learning about things in a whole different way. I saw these youth, who I had come to care about so much, learning and teaching me with their perspective and participation. I kind of felt like the roles were being switched! No longer did I feel nervous because I didn’t have all of the answers. I was learning as much as I could ever hope to share with the group.
Of course, there were days of snowboarding, seeing many of the youth who had never been on the mountain before embrace the sport I had loved since I was their age! I saw them in moments of doubt and fear, push forward and grow. I saw them becoming snowboarders right in front of my eyes. And it was amazing.
I’ve seen tears of joy, and also of sadness as they navigate through this time in their lives. I’ve given rides. Lots of rides! Rides to program, or from program. Navigating to houses by the routes of the buses through the city because that was the way they knew. And it was great.
I look back to my experience as a mentor up to this point and I recall a range of experiences. From truly feeling like we were pushing our growing edges, to quiet moments of getting to know someone who’s path would never had crossed mine if not for tSB. Moments of happiness, to heartache and frustration. Smiles, to sadness. It hasn’t been easy the whole way, but it has been more than I ever expected. It has shown me that the word is so much more than the dictionary defines it as. It has, in the words of the friend who pushed me in this direction, matter-of-factly, changed my life.