My freshman and sophomore year are Auburn were more challenging that I had expected them to be. Not so much dealing with academics, but dealing with the emotional transition of going to college out of state was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. In high school, I was in as many clubs as I could handle at one time, everyone at school knew me, and I measured my success by how busy I was. When I came to Auburn I became a big fish in a small pond. My only extra curricular activity was my social sorority and I felt like I was trying to fit into a mold that I didn’t belong in. Then, one fateful day I was lost in the Haley Center and stumbled upon a flyer that read “ Join the Young Women Leader Program.”
The Young Woman Leaders Program is a mentoring program that pairs 7th grade girls at Auburn Junior High with college women. I had mentored before and really enjoyed it so I decided to interview. After I was accepted, I was put on a track that would alter my entire life. Every Monday I met in a classroom with all of the other mentors, who were referred to as “big sisters”, where we learned about adolescent development. We were educated about the differences that girl and boys experience at school and spoke in detail about how to empower young women. I learned that being a mentor is not about giving advice or “fixing someone” but rather its giving them the tools to help themselves and supporting them along the way. After class I would meet with my small group, which was composed of five other big sisters and two undergraduate facilitators. We planned our weekly lessons and spoke about how our relationship with our little was going. The next day, we would meet with our little sisters at the junior high and do a lesson. These lessons usually touch on things like relationships, anger management, good decision-making and being a leader. In addition from all of this I got to spend at least one hour a week with my amazing little sister to just hang out.
When I started to grow in the program I finally had back that feeling of being busy that I had been yearning for, but this felt so much better because my busy schedule was filled with purpose. I knew that every meeting meant something more than a mark on my weekly planner or a bullet point on a resume; it was bigger than anything I had every done before. A year after the program ended I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave so I continued on to become an undergraduate facilitator, which allows me to mentor five new bigs and their little sisters. I also am still close with my little sister. Even though I am no longer required by the program to spend time with her, I still drive her to school once a week and occasionally hang out with her on weekends. She will be a part of my life for as long as she wants to be and for that I am so grateful.
YWLP was truly a life changing experience for me. I went into it thinking that I would just be hanging out with a girl and I may teach her some lessons along the way; it ended up being so much more than that. Not only did my little sister teach me about dedication, patience, and understanding, but the YWLP program led me to people that I would otherwise have never met on this campus. It has shaped me into a strong, and independent woman who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. It has encouraged me to speak out about women’s rights, led me to work as an ambassador to Women’s Resource Center and solidified my desire to focus on Poverty law when I attend Emory Law next Fall.
Being a mentor is not for everyone. It requires a ton of dedication and more patience than you would think. But, if you are willing to put in the work, it can open so many doors, and maybe even change your life. If you are interested in applying to be a big sister in the Young Women Leaders Program you can go to https://cws.auburn.edu/wc/cm/YWLP or email email@example.com.