After working with different mentoring organizations in the past, Sarah Palermo joined Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) at Robert Morris University believing that her experience would be similar. She’s majoring in business education, so she’s used to working with children and leading lessons. But after she started mentoring with the RMU SWSG Chapter, her point of view changed quickly.
“Your expectations of what you think is going to happen are probably not what’s going to happen,” said Sarah. “But even if something’s not going the way you thought it would, just stick with it.”

Sarah with two of her mentees. She worked hard to connect with the girls at her mentoring site so she can help them learn and grow.

Sarah loved the curriculum built by SWSG for mentors to deliver to elementary girls. She thought her mentees would love learning about the cool female leaders in the lessons. But her girls had a different idea about what was “cool” and fun.
Along with her fellow mentors, Sarah didn’t give up. They encouraged each girl to connect to the lessons and role models in the way that was best for her. For instance, if a girl could better express herself through drawing than writing, Sarah helped her relate her drawings to the lessons or talked with her about how they illustrated her dreams and goals.
“I learned that when a situation isn’t going to plan… you adapt. I think that’s definitely a skill all mentors and educators need to learn,” said Sarah.
By her second semester as a mentor, Sarah’s mentees had changed their outlook. They were more interested in the lessons and what their mentors had to say, and they could tell that their mentors really wanted to be present with them and make a difference, Sarah said.
“Being an only kid growing up, I didn’t have an older sister to look up to,” Sarah said. “That’s why I [mentor] – I can see things that a lot of these girls don’t see in themselves.”
SWSG has also impacted Sarah’s own life for the better, she said. Her college education is preparing her to be a teacher, and she not only applies and hones her acquired skills at mentoring sessions, but she also learns new skills as a mentor that she relates back to being an educator.
She’s thankful for the mentors in the RMU chapter, who are all very close. They share the mentality of wanting to help other people both within their role as mentors and in their everyday life – a trait that Sarah plans to carry with her as she moves toward her goal of becoming a teacher and, eventually, a principal or superintendent.
“It will definitely continue with me as a reminder of how to handle certain situations and inspire young kids,” said Sarah.
Though her ultimate goal as an SWSG mentor is to impact the lives of her mentees, she’s been changed as much as they have.
“It’s not just a mentoring program for young girls, it’s also a mentoring program for the college students themselves,” said Sarah. “Though the mission might be about elementary girls, we also find mentors in ourselves and become a greater sisterhood.”