Number of students you have mentored/tutored: I have mentored approximately 5 students and tutored approximately 15. During each cycle of the first couple of years I was assigned multiple students for tutoring. These past few years I have been paired one to one for tutoring.

How did you first hear about Year Up? I live in the same neighborhood as the downtown Seattle campus. After moving here, I would walk by the campus and was curious about the name. Eventually, I decided to Google Year Up, which is how I found out about Year Up’s mission and was immediately interested in finding out how I could help.

What made you want to get involved? Having recently moved from Montana to Seattle I knew I wanted to get involved in local community service. I had not begun that search until I stumbled upon the downtown campus of Year Up. The mission of this organization immediately spoke to me as I believe education is the answer to most, if not all, of society’s ills. I also understand firsthand how circumstances beyond your control can shape your future. Giving young adults a chance to reshape their future through hope, skill and purpose benefits everyone and is the best gift that can be given.

What surprised you most about working with Year Up students? The amount of personal growth that is achieved by each student over a short 12-month time frame is what surprised me most about working with Year Up students. From our first meeting to graduation, whether it is as mentor/mentee or tutor/tutee, it is thrilling to watch this person embrace expectation and accountability, trust their peers, staff and volunteers, and believe in themselves. I believe the openness Year Up instills, which allows these young adults to be vulnerable in a safe environment, is a huge part of why there is so much growth in such a short time.

Why is being a part of the Year Up movement meaningful to you?

Being a part of the Year Up movement is meaningful to me because I firmly believe that every hour spent or dime donated could not be going to a better purpose than helping a young adult realize their potential. When I hear the stories of what brought each student through the doors of Year Up, I am inspired and motivated to do all I can to help. What I get in return from the students and staff at Year Up is immeasurable.

What has been challenging about volunteering with Year Up students? There are challenges being a Year Up volunteer. As a tutor, I never know from week to week what task or assistance will be needed by the student. However, I also see this challenge as exciting and an opportunity for me to learn more about what the students are experiencing in the classroom. As a non-technical tutor, I frequently have to work with the student to interpret the instructor’s intentions. This can be difficult when there are language barriers and learning styles to work around.

As a mentor, the biggest challenge is getting to that point of trust. There can be weeks of arm’s length conversation until that moment of connection, which is different with each student. We both feel it when that connection is made, and it is so rewarding. Lastly, letting go once the students move onto their careers is often required. I do stay in touch with some of my tutees and mentees, but there are some for whom this part of their experience is behind them, and they choose to move forward. It is always hard for me but I have learned to expect this phase, understand and take pride in whatever part I have played in their success.

What have been your biggest wins? My biggest win is when I feel I have made a connection with the student. There is so much trust required of being both a tutor and a mentor. If the student doesn’t trust me, our efforts are compromised. Some students take longer than others to learn to trust. So, being patient and not putting expectation on a time frame is so important. Once I feel that connection is made, I silently say to myself “there it is!” Then we build on it, quietly and slowly. Feels amazing!

What advice would you have for someone who is working with Year Up students? The best advice I can give for someone who is working with a Year Up student is to be patient, yet firm. Find that balance of letting the student achieve their footing but also hold their feet to the fire, so to speak. Some take longer than others to discover their work ethic, but it is there or they would not have made it into the program.

Also, know that the staff of Year Up has your back! I have never volunteered for an organization that has more support or a harder working staff than Year Up. They clearly value their volunteers and are always available when a volunteer may have a concern or question.