National Mentoring Month is a time to highlight the power of relationships. As January draws to a close, we reflect on the many stories shared and articles written about the importance of mentorship and its impact on those who need it most. I’ve committed nearly 20 years of my life to expanding mentorship opportunities for youth because I benefited so much from great mentors as a kid and young adult. I know how fortunate I am to have had people take a special interest in helping me develop my potential, and I try to pay it forward every day by seeing that others get some of the same great mentoring that I received.
Mike Pimentel was one of those mentors. Even though I hadn’t seen Mike in about 15 years, he’s been on my mind a lot recently because I learned he died a few months ago from cancer at age 52, and I didn’t have a chance to tell him about the impact he made in my life. As I reflect on our mentoring relationship, I can point to 5 characteristics of Mike’s informal mentoring of me that I’ve seen the most successful mentors do in my 18 years at CPE.
- Show That You Care: Mike and I met when I was a varsity basketball player at Tufts University and he was first our team’s athletic trainer and then its strength and conditioning coach. I had a lot of people who looked out for me during those years, but Mike stood out because he would go the extra mile doing things like visiting me in the hospital on a Saturday night after an injury, and putting in extra time to help me get an edge in my training. Like all good mentors, Mike shaped our relationship so that I knew I could count on him, and that he wasn’t expecting anything in return.
- Provide a Great Example: Every young person needs a mentor who is a good role model and Mike served that role for me at a time when I was beginning my professional life. Two years after I graduated, I came back to Tufts and began to work part-time for Mike helping him administer strength and conditioning programs with the sports teams, which he now led for the University. I learned a lot from him that I apply to my own leadership today, both directly from his coaching of me, but also indirectly from watching how he approached his work.
- Advocate and Try to Open Doors: Great mentors do what they can to help their mentees with introductions and references, and Mike did this for me at a time when I was just starting out and needed any extra boost I could get. His advocacy on my behalf not only helped me earn a full scholarship for my Master’s in Education program at Tufts, and great part-time work continuing to assist him with sports teams’ strength and conditioning programs.
- Honest Feedback: Once trust and respect have been established in the relationship, great mentors know how and when to give tough love. Mike had an effective way to providing critical feedback and advice, and it always made me think afterwards about how I could improve in similar situations in the future. This type of feedback makes you appreciate both the message and the person, even if at the moment it is uncomfortable to hear about your mistakes.
- Bring Out Potential: My favorite aspect of mentoring is when mentors help their mentees see and later achieve potential that they may not have known was possible. Mike was one of the mentors who helped me see that I was more capable than I realized. It wasn’t so much through pep talks to boost my confidence, but more through the consistent coaching, and knowing that I had people like him in my corner, I developed my own confidence and began to set my sights higher and higher. I’m grateful to him for it.
Every young person deserves to have mentors like Mike Pimentel. He had a big influence in my life, not only in helping me with my own achievement, but also as an inspiration to bring experiences like my own to hundreds of others of youth in my community.
– Khari Brown, CEO of Capital Partners for Education