Mentoring Program Set to Begin Third Year
For Vira David, the satisfaction of mentoring a young person far exceeded the time and effort she put into the job.
“Being a mentor is difficult, but rewarding,” said David, a former student at the Graduate Program for International Affairs, who previously served as program coordinator of The New School’s mentorship program at The Urban Assembly Media High School in Manhattan. “It was a great joy when my mentee let me in on her struggles, but it was also very hard to advise a teen dealing with very adult problems.”
On October 12, The New School will begin its third year in affiliation with UA Media. Student mentors from GPIA and Milano will be paired with mentees from the Upper West Side high school two Wednesdays a month, participating in a variety of activities that include field trips, career development and art projects. The collaborative effort gives New School graduate students the opportunity to provide academic and emotional support to low-income students at the small preparatory institution, which depends on private philanthropy to educate kids from some of the city’s most impoverished communities.
David, who graduated from GPIA in May, said the program is focused on assisting students who not only deal with the typical problems of being a teenager, but difficult social and economic obstacles as well.
“While they are facing the normal teenage challenges like dating, college and friends, our mentees were also dealing with issues like public housing and tension between Latinos and African-Americans in school,” David said.
GPIA director Michael Cohen started the union between The New School and UA Media in 2009. The first year of the affiliation was a co-ed test run, with seven mentors from GPIA and Milano working with both boys and girls at the school. David made alterations in the program’s second year, choosing to center it primarily around women’s issues and pairing girls at UA Media with female mentors from The New School. It is a model which will be continued by David’s successor, Milano student and new program coordinator Priya Sodha.
According to Laura Scheck, co-director of student opportunities at The Urban Assembly, the goal is to provide the students with positive female role models who help them develop a variety of skills and resources.
“[The program] builds confidence in the girls through exploring and discussing their strengths while focusing on career and skill building, such as writing resumes, applying for summer jobs or internships, and going on a college tour as a group,” Scheck said.
The relationship, however, is meant to be mutually beneficial to both mentor and mentee. David said it provides GPIA and Milano students with the opportunity to “contextualize [their] international coursework within the New York community.”
GPIA student Julie Mellin is entering her second year as a mentor at the program.
“I want to make sure that my mentee sees me as someone she can go to when she needs advice, or wants to talk to someone who’s not quite a peer, but also not an authority figure or a member of her family,” Mellin said. “I don’t know how the UA did it, but my mentee is basically like me when I was 16 years old.”