Friday, July 15, 2011
While her own family remains in Puerto Rico, where she was raised, Mariela Oyola-Brauch beams, “My relationship with my mentee, Bridgette, is more than merely a mentoring relationship – for me, she and her family are my family.”
When her employer, Procter & Gamble, partnered with Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (CYC) to recruit Hispanic employees to join their mentoring initiative, Mariela felt compelled to enroll. She says, “I wanted to help cultivate a future generation of Hispanics who are educated and involved in their communities.”
CYC, a United Way of Greater Cincinnati agency partner, provides mentoring and college readiness services to young people in grades 3 through 12, ensuring that these children graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or rewarding employment.
Mariela’s mentee, Bridgette, who will begin her 8th grade year at the Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies (AMIS) in the fall, recalls the day she finally met Mariela after discovering the program through her school. She thought, “Wow, I got her! Everyone wanted her.”
Young and approachable, Mariela saw Bridgette from then on as much as possible – sometimes two or three times a week – to cook, play volleyball, swim, or see a play.
Research shows that a child with a sustained and supportive relationship with at least one caring adult achieves positive outcomes like academic success and social skills development.
Bridgette’s grades had always been a point of contention. But now, well into the third year of their relationship, even this trying area is seeing improvement. And, more confident and outspoken than she was before she met Mariela, Bridgette has been recognized as “student of the month” several times.
Mariela recollects to when Bridgette felt that there was no point to graduating from high school. She remembers a night when Bridgette modeled Mariela’s lab coat and pretended to be a doctor. For Mariela, that night constituted a turning point – and Bridgette now expresses hopes of becoming a nurse.
Recently, Mariela was awarded the Wendy Steel Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Having now run the mentoring initiative at P&G for two years, she aspires to expand the program by collaborating with supplementary community partners and encouraging P&G employees abroad to initiate their own programs.
With reflection, Bridgette says, “If I wasn’t with Mariela, I’d be lost. I think I’d get in trouble in school and my grades would still be low.” Mariela counters, “I just hope that Bridgette continues to be a great daughter and friend, and that she finds something that can sustain her.”
Mariela smiles, “It’s our community’s responsibility to foster youth. Mentoring has been the most gratifying experience of my life.”
For United Way’s annual Day of Action, held this year on June 21, nearly 75 mentors, mentees and prospective mentors participated in United Way’s Mentoring Fair, in conjunction with United Way Worldwide’s efforts to recruit one million volunteer tutors and mentors over the next three years. To find out more about mentoring, or to find a mentoring opportunity that aligns with your interests, please visit http://uwgc.volunteermatch.org.