I came to the SWSG Fall Training Session looking forward to meeting the mentors behind the organization, as well as wrapping some formal training around years of community service and leadership. I left with a lot more than that. At the end of the day, I was inspired and enlightened. Genuinely refueled. And while I had always appreciated and respected the job SWSG does, meeting the College Mentors and hearing about their experiences personalized the organization’s mission.
The training demonstrated SWSG’s ability to be a multi-generational pipeline of inspirational fuel – a mentoring network that is a continuum of leadership. The morning session for the Professional Mentors was facilitated by Ilene Wolfman, Director of Training and Development at Staples. Ilene was terrific – a combination of knowledge, wit and insight. And to boot, she kept us on task and on time. Two articles served as the session’s basis for discussion: one on “Telling Your Public Story,” and the other on Emotional Intelligence. We broke into small groups to discuss some personal challenges, choices and outcomes, as well as which sections of the emotional intelligence article most resonated with us. Both exercises required each of us to look inside ourselves, engage in some self-reflection and get to know several other Professional Mentors in the room.
Setting boundaries
The sessions with the College Mentors were absorbing. In the lunch session, we learned about some of the neighborhoods the Mentors went to and some of the experiences they had there. One more session followed. I opted to attend a workshop intended for the College Mentors that dealt with appropriateness and setting boundaries. This session was facilitated by Steph Trilling of BE SAFE, a collaborative prevention initiative that addresses a variety of health issues. Again, Steph was a knowledgeable, insightful and engaging leader, involving us in some creative exercises to generate discussion. I got to see the mentors’ acceptance of someone who is different, firsthand – they graciously made me feel like a part of the group, despite the fact that I was at least the age of their parents. It was fascinating to hear their experiences. Their boundaries are indeed tested – whether it’s waiting with the elementary school girls whose parents are late for pick up, responding to requests for contact information or answering personal questions – the boundaries of appropriateness are hazy at best when you are trying to build a close, safe environment for these at-risk girls. The mentors clearly care deeply about the girls – their SWSG commitment has been taken to heart.
The sessions forced me to step away from the practical demands of daily life and reflect on who I once was, who I’d become and how I’d gotten there. It took me to the person buried in my core – someone who still tries to improve lives, but who does so from her own little corner of the world. I missed the person who was once filled with the passion and energy I saw in these strong young women, but whose attention had shifted to day-to-day demands when adult life beckoned.
Reigniting passion
A few years ago, I had gotten together with three friends, all of us in our 40’s. I asked them, “If money weren’t an object, what would you be doing?” Our answers were pretty much the same: “I don’t know – I’ve always done what has been needed.” That’s what so many of us do – and then when the time comes when we can relaunch, we struggle to find a position or activity that reignites the passion many of us once had, one that helps express our truest selves. We all assume the old person is long gone and question whether it’s even possible to feel so strongly about something, again. We all change but most likely, that person of years ago is still there. She’s just been pushed way behind the daily demands of adult life. And those feelings of passion are still there, just buried.
Professional Mentors have the benefit of work and life experience that has added to our perspective. It has improved our ability to help our mentees develop goals and plans that will hopefully help them grow into the most honest, highest expression of themselves. All the while, they are helping to grow those same qualities in their young mentees. I saw intelligence, support, trust and connection in action at the SWSG workshop – and while those qualities are the foundation of this multi-generational network, they’re also fuel. They’re fuel that can breathe new life into those of us who temporarily stepped away from our truest selves. Many thanks to SWSG and its Fall Training – you’ve created a group much greater than the sum of its parts.

Maggie Stenman is a first-year Professional Mentor with SWSG and a Senior Financial Writer with Natixis Global Asset Management. In her free time, she looks forward to spending time with family and friends, working with animals and cooking.