Empty nester Heather Heverling, 56, of Hopkinton was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would add value to her life when she became a mentor for the Mazie Mentoring Program. Having raised two children of her own who have graduated from college and started careers, she felt she had a lot to offer a high school student in need of structure. She knew she’d need to be a role model and help provide stability in her mentee’s life. What she didn’t account for are the lessons she would learn from her mentee: how to be open, how to be more flexible and how to text.
The Mazie Mentoring Program is operated by the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation (JAMMF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming at-risk or disadvantaged youth into adults of promise. Founded in 1998, the unique goal-oriented scholarship award giving program pairs high school sophomores who are at-risk of not fulfilling their potential with adult volunteer mentors who can help them thrive.
Heverling was matched in November 2012 with Yasmin Sturns, 17, of Framingham, a bubbly and outgoing sophomore at Framingham High School who, some thought, appeared to be more concerned with her social life than her grades or school attendance record. The reality was she lived with her mother and two half-brothers and had to balance helping around the house and working part-time jobs with getting an education and hanging out with friends. Heather and Yasmin’s mentor-mentee relationship was friendly from the start, but, has grown stronger in the past year and a half.
“When I first met Yasmin, I knew quickly that she is smart and confident and I didn’t understand why she wasn’t more academically successful,” says Heverling. “As I got to know her, I realized she wasn’t unmotivated or dismissive. Rather, she is a passionate girl with a lot of personality who needed help realizing the importance of her education and thinking in the future after high school.”
With Sturns’ busy schedule, the mentee-mentor match found texting to be the best mode of communication in order to check in and arrange weekly outings. Heverling and Sturns often meet at the MetroWest YMCA to exercise, catch up over a cup of coffee, to review Sturns’ homework or to go see a movie. One of their shared passions is food and their goal, in addition to raising Sturns’ GPA, is to try every restaurant in Framingham together before Sturns graduates.
“When I started volunteering for the Mazie Mentoring Program, I saw mentoring a teenager as another project that would leave me feeling like I had really accomplished something great,” says Heverling. I assumed my relationship and approach with Yasmin would be similar to the parenting style I had with my own children. As I got to know Yasmin, I realized how much more my relationship meant to both of us and how unique and different it is than the relationship I had with my own teenagers. She has taught me to be more open, flexible and constant. She has also taught me to look outside the box and has helped to keep me young by finally showing me how to text, something my own children hadn’t done.”
In the last 16 years, the Mazie Mentoring Program has helped more than 500 young people go on to lead more fulfilled and successful lives while inspiring the adult volunteer mentors who work with them. Each year, 60 Framingham and Waltham High School students are accepted into the program. More than 90 percent of those students graduate from high school and more than 70 percent go on to college or other post-secondary training programs.
For more information about the Mazie Mentoring Program, to become a mentor, or to support the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation, visit mazie.org. Applications for volunteer mentors are always being accepted.