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Paying It Forward as a Career Mentor

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Pay it forward is an expression for when the recipient of kindness does something kind in turn for someone else rather than simply accepting or repaying the original good deed.  

Tamara Taylor, complexity lead at Stellantis, has been the recipient of many acts of kindness and encouragement throughout her life that impacted her greatly.  A youth ministry, school advisors, a college dean, and of course her mother, all got her to where she was supposed to go.  

“I am so grateful that they provided me with so much encouragement and support as I navigated my educational path when I was younger and, as a result, I have a desire to give back to young people in the same way. I enjoy encouraging them to reach their full potential, “says Tamara. 

Becoming a mentor seemed like a logical choice for Tamara. She was nervous at first and wanted to make a good impression and engage her students, so she brought in a real automotive fuel tank pump to help explain her job at Stellantis. When she removed it from the carton to show the students it reeked of gasoline which quickly filled the room. One of her students, Angelica Tibbits, said, “I have always loved the smell of gasoline.”  

Awkward moment saved. 

“When I met Angelica, she was navigating a difficult situation with her mother and family responsibilities, but she was determined she wanted more for her life.” 

“She is an impressive young woman with big dreams. She just needed someone to help achieve her ambitions and remind her that she has what it takes to realize her dreams.” 

With help from Tamara, Angelica went on to graduate from Pontiac Academy for Excellence, win our Cupp-Hamilton Scholarship, and enroll at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). She just completed her third year at SVSU where she is studying education and communications.  

“I want to be in the classroom and out in the community helping students,” said Angelica of her career aspirations. “Helping build the community that I live in so that the young people can have a place to thrive. I want to help my city, Pontiac, move forward and have a ‘buildup’ mindset – not a ‘tear down’ mindset.”  

As a college student, Angelica has moved from our high school program into our College Success Mentoring program. She is mentored by Tracey Yacks, a teaching and learning specialist at Ferndale Public Schools, and just won our 2021-22 Alumni Scholarship.

“Angelica is great to work with,” said Tracey. “She has a positive outlook and she’s had a lot of challenges. But she pushes through and doesn’t give up.”  

Tracey has seen Angelica grow in the short time they have worked together.  

“Her confidence has grown, and she is more receptive to getting help. We have a relationship now, so our conversations are more in-depth and meaningful.”   

“She has triumphed against all the odds, and the Winning Futures Program was influential in her journey,” says Tamara.  

Our program is student-focused and has a well-planned curriculum and well-trained staff and mentors. It gives students the opportunity to explore two things: what they want their future to look like and how they make it happen.  

Our curriculum guides the conversations with set topics and discussion points for meaningful engagement by: 

  • Helping students envision what their future could look like 
  • Giving students the chance to express themselves in their terms 
  • Helping to set realistic goals and a plan to achieve them 
  • Encouraging students to develop critical thinking and self-reflection skills 

Helping kids who are in challenging circumstances to finish stronger than they started is the reason to become a mentor.  Angelica’s story is certainly an example of that.  

Click here to learn how you can be a career mentor and start your cycle of paying it forward. 

A quick shout out to Tamara Taylor has written a book, Zoom Out. How to Forgive and Live – A Roadmap to Your Healing. Check it out on Amazon!