When an individual decides to mentor someone it’s a gift. A gift of shared knowledge, experience and most precious of them all – their time. In the story of Tom Zara, his experience with our program is something he carries with him and it has inspired him to come full circle and return as a Winning Futures mentor – to pay it forward and inspire the next generation.
Tom entered our program as a freshman at Warren Mott High School. He was a decent student but lacked motivation. “I wouldn’t say I was pessimistic but skeptical in my approach to things and certainly about my future. Without a doubt that is the single greatest lesson I learned while in the program – the power of thinking positively.”
Learned optimism changed his outlook and the way he saw himself. But even more importantly it changed how he saw his place in the world. By reframing the negative self-talk and cultivating more optimistic behaviors, Tom saw his future in a more positive light.
He remembers being told by his mentor, “If you’re going to do something go all in!” It’s a phrase he has gone to a few times in his life and most recently when he decided to leave his job a high school math and Spanish teacher to become an entrepreneur. He is the proud owner of Zara Tutoring in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Tom has created an environment that is welcoming and a safe space for kids to learn. He realizes kids come to him and their confidence is usually a little rattled, so his team focuses on the mental side of academics by setting realistic objectives and providing clear communication and positive feedback.
Tom said, “It’s the discipline I learned in high school when I was a student in the Winning Futures program, and it worked. I tell kids you have a choice – the pain of discipline or the pain of regret – you get to choose.”
He believes confidence comes from being prepared, so his team works on testing strategies and building upon their educational foundation by reviewing something familiar while introducing something new. “I challenge them to get out of their comfort zones and to take on new ideas and get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Tom.
Tom considers the time spent with his students to be a privilege, and through the personalized attention tutoring provides he hopes to impart the joy of learning.
A year ago, Tom came back to mentor in our program. “I believe in the pure intentions of the program and the intrinsic value of mentoring. And I am at a place in my life where I am ready to give a kid hope for their future – like someone did for me.”
Sometimes, the mentee begins the cycle over again, this time as a mentor.
All knowledge and experience is wasted if not shared and passed forward. Do your part and pay it forward. Become a Winning Futures career mentor! We are taking career mentor applications for the 2022-23 school year. Apply online or get more information.