By Suzie Kim
You know that famous line from Forrest Gump, ” Life is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re going to get?” It’s so true. I’m continuously surprised by what I find in my own box and with so much variety in the choices, it’s hard to figure out which chocolate to take. Luckily for me, I had the blessing of being surrounded by so many fantastic mentors that have helped me navigate my own chocolate box. I’ve grown so much under their patient guidance personally and professionally, and my idea of what a mentor is has also grown.
I had several great mentors in the traditional sense, relationships in which I gained a lot from the insightful advice from all the people I aspired to be like. My first mentors were Sydney Palinkas, Nikki Makwinski, and Brooke Hoger, all stellar alumni of the Service-Learning Program. I learned how to confidently facilitate a small group and navigate my strengths by following their example.
When I was a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant, Julie Miller, my faculty member, helped me build my self-confidence as leader in the classroom. She offered me many opportunities inside and outside the classroom for growth through conversations.
As a co-op for the program, I had the awesome chance to work with both the Director of the Service-Learning Program Becca Berkey and Assistant Director Lisa Roe. Through Becca, I saw what it takes to be a fearless leader and how important it was bring laughter into your work day. She really exemplified how to lead a supportive and productive team. I learned all things work-life balance/organization from Lisa! I emulated her neat and consistent style and learned the importance of proper follow-through in all projects. It was her endless patience that helped me develop the confidence in my own work strengths and to really go after the experiences that I want to have instead of sitting around just wishing for them.
I also can’t talk about my co-op experience without mentioning my partner-in-crime-at-the-time, Liza Ashley. I cannot even take a guess as to where I would be without her. Her steady and gentle presence kept me sane during the hectic co-op cycle. I’m so proud to have been able to work with her so closely and made a wonderful and inspiring friend!
Of course, the list of phenomenal people in our program is not limited to the people mentioned above, but I also want to avoid making this sound like an Oscars acceptance speech. What my biggest takeaway is from all my interactions is that each of my mentors are uniquely themselves and they have their own style. They have shared their own stories and experiences that have led to the lessons they have learned, and encouraged me to do the same.
It’s corny and cheesy, but I really owe it to the amazing people around me who work hard every single day. I just wanted to let them know that they can add “being an inspiration” to their list of countless accomplishments. I know that without all those conversations of shared wisdom, encouragement and laughs, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
It’s hard to navigate life on your own. Really, Forrest Gump had it right when he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get” – unless you have fantastic mentors who will let you know at least which chocolates taste the best.