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Mentoring Done Right!

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How Valencia White helped Alizsa Johnson overcome COVID-related challenges, grow her business, and strive for her future.

Alizsa Johnson considers herself a typical teenager who enjoys hanging out with friends, FaceTiming, texting, and watching TikTok videos. But really, she is anything but typical.

Alizsa is a junior at Harper Woods High School where she is in the second year of our Workforce Prep program. She quickly earned notice by Bryan Howard, director of programs.

Learn more about mentoring and our Workforce Prep program.

“In many ways, Alisza is a student ambassador for us,” said Bryan. “Her perspective and positive energy about our program and her future is exceptional. Last year she earned the perfect attendance award for our program and, given all the challenges COVID-19 presented, she still showed up every week, no excuses.”

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on students. Isolation and depression have made their high school years even more difficult. Despite these challenges, Alizsa is excelling with help from her mentor, Valencia White, technology compliance program manager at Rock Central, LLC.

“I am a hands-on visual learner,” said Alizsa. “Using tutorials and webinars to navigate e-learning instruction has not been easy for me. I once got to a point where I was feeling overwhelmed by all the information in my classes and all the technology challenges. I started to feel like I wasn’t understanding what was going on, but then I realized that I was putting myself down before I even tried. Valencia helped me break down that barrier of being so afraid. She gave me hope.”

“As COVID dragged on, it really started to affect Alizsa,” said Valencia. “I talked with her about the importance of communicating with her teachers and telling them when she was having technology issues or not understanding something. She established much better relationships with her teachers and now her grades are improving. One teacher even said that Alizsa is her best student!”

Spending time with Alizsa, it doesn’t take long to realize that, in addition to being a dedicated student, she is actively thinking about and working towards her dreams and goals. Last year Alizsa was interested in dentistry and was matched with Dr. Krista Wortman. Since then, her interests shifted, and she found a passion for business which is when she was matched with Valencia.

Last summer she launched her side hustle, Stone-em Out, where she bedazzles inspirational messages on face masks, cups, and hats. She started the business hoping her messages would spread joy and maybe make a few bucks. As her business grew, so did her resilience, optimism, and creativity. But it hasn’t been easy. There were things about starting and running a business that she didn’t know, like how to manage inventory and process payments.

“Valencia has already done some of what I aspire to do, so her experience can only help me reach my goals faster,” says Alizsa. “She’s been a perfect match for me.”

“Alizsa is a very strong individual,” said Valencia. “She knows what she wants and she works hard to get it. Even more important, she listens and learns, and uses what she learns to improve herself. That’s her strongest quality.”

Aliza is wired to be an entrepreneur. Following high school, she plans to attend college and major in business management. With help from Valencia and our program, she will do so with a stronger sense of self and a deliberate plan. She has found passion for blazing trails not yet traveled and enjoys being a leader. We intend to keep our eye on Alizsa and look forward to all that she will become.

The mentor/student relationship is critical in helping students succeed. Mentors, like Valencia, engage with high school students as they begin to explore their futures. They view situations through the lens of their student, helping them navigate a better outcome by opening doors to information channels and future opportunities, such as supportive friendships, learning resources, and even jobs.

“The Alizsa/Valencia story serves as a great example of how impactful mentoring can be,” said Bryan. “When kids feel safe and secure, they instinctively use their mentor as a sounding board, sharing their thoughts, ideas, and fears, and listening to their feedback as they make decisions.”

That’s mentoring done right!

Our 2021-22 mentoring program will feature virtual, school-based mentoring that can be done from the safety and comforts of your office or home. Each session includes a staff-led lesson followed by a structured activity for mentors and students that reinforces the lesson. Hourly sessions are held two or three times per month, November through May. Mentors receive training and support before and during every session.

Learn more about mentoring and our Workforce Prep program.