I’ve signed up to mentor an 11th grader — for the next three years — via iMentor, which is looking for mentors in San Jose, Oakland, Chicago and New York City. My year on the civil grand jury ends in June, so I’ll have the time.
The group partners with high schools — typically those with lots of kids who will be the first in their families to go to college — to help students plan for the future. Mentors commit to exchanging weekly e-mail with their mentee and getting together once a month at scheduled events.
The application form asked about the challenges I’d faced in high school. Academic? Social? Family? Health? Emotional? Drugs/alcohol? Friends with problems? The premise is that sharing your own teen problems helps a mentor connect with a student who’s going through problems of their own.
My problem: I had no serious problems in high school. Social problems? I certainly wasn’t in the “popular” crowd, but I had friends. I had the usual insecurities of a teenager, but I realized they were usual. I used to say that I was the only non-neurotic Jewish graduate of Highland Park High School. I may still be the only one.
I skipped that part of the form, but the application wouldn’t let me go on to the next page. Checking at least one challenge was “required.”
Finally, I decided it could apply to a broader time period and went for health problems. When I was 33, the mother of a preschooler and going through a divorce, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It wasn’t horrible, since I knew I’d survive. But it was difficult. Besides, I needed to check something to get to the next page.
The next day I told Marie, a fellow civil grand juror, that I’d listed her as a reference. “Tell them I’m not a raving lunatic,” I said.
She looked at me but did not speak. It’s true I’ve done some raving, but not lunatic raving.
Anyhow, check it out: iMentor needs more mentors.