January 12, 2015

Why Mentor? An Insider's View on Our Baltimore Program for Girls

Shawn Nocher, owner of The Floral Studio in Baltimore, talked to us about her journey as a mentor for the last eight years in our Girls Mentoring Program. Established in 2001, in partnership with the Enterprise Women’s Network, the Girls Mentoring Program creates a support system for girls while enriching their educational experience.

Because it's so close to her heart, Shawn is donating a percentage of her business profits to support the program. 

 1. Why did you become involved with the Girls Mentoring Program?

I was asked! A friend asked me to give it a try and I was kind of missing my own kids with one off to college and another about to head off the next year. I was missing having a house full of giggling girls. So I jumped in and never looked back.

2. What’s been your greatest reward in mentoring the girls?

The most rewarding thing is that I can really see changes in the girls. I watch them grow and learn to trust us.There have been so many amazing moments. A few really stick out in my mind. The first was when we worked with a small group of eighth graders, maybe five girls, and they were not all friends outside of mentoring and they were all VERY different. But we spent a lot of time talking about heading into high school and all of them ended up going to a really good high school, with two headed off to City College and another to Western. One of the girls was a target for bullies. And yet, by the end of the year, the other girls had sort of circled the wagons around her and forged a protective friendship.We once led a workshop with our sixth/seventh grade girls and we worked on role playing to help them get comfortable with the idea of looking for summer jobs. The workshop went really well and the girls brainstormed about job ideas like pet walking, weeding neighborhood gardens, maybe getting a part-time job in a store or restaurant. But the best part of all was when, two weeks later, the tables were turned on me and one of the girls approached me—using all the techniques we learned in role playing—and asked me for a job! She is a high school junior now and she still works for me every summer. We all love having her in the studio and she’s an amazing worker!But my favorite moment of all time had to be the moment that I learned a young girl I had been mentoring for four years had been accepted to the Milton Hershey School. It was such a relief to know she was finally going to get to do what she wanted to do more than anything in the world—simply go to school!

3. What do you look forward to every year? What makes you keep coming back to volunteer?

I always look forward to seeing the girls and seeing how much they’ve grown. But I have to admit I also look forward to being a part of such an interesting mix of women. I’ve forged some wonderful friendships through this program and I truly value that. My life is enriched by the girls but also by the core of intelligent, dynamic and like-minded women I have come to know.

4. What would you say to someone who’s interested in becoming a mentor?

Try it—but know that it’s not for everyone. It’s hard sometimes, and frustrating, even a little sad. Sometimes it’s even a bit awkward for me because my world is so very different from that of the girls and honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m completely out of touch.They’re not going to look at you every time you show up and say thank you, thank you—you’re so wonderful!  That just isn’t going to happen. But the rewards are there. They just unveil themselves in a very quiet way. You get a surprise hug, or a little note, or you overhear a girl advising another girl and saying the very same thing you just said to her last week about friendship or family or school. Those are the rewards and they happen slowly, after the trust has been built.I’ve always believed that if volunteering were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy. It’s a choice and a commitment and If you’re going to give, do it without expecting anything back. Getting something back is just a bonus—you’re there to give.

To learn more, visit Shawn's blog and donate to support the program here. Interested in volunteering as a girls mentor in Baltimore? Contact Tina Hike-Hubbard by email or call 410.230.2135.

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