For SWSG Pittsburgh, relationships between mentors and mentees are the most important part of our work. We checked in with one of our Strong Leader mentors and her college woman mentee to find out what their mentoring relationship is like and how it helps both of them build strength. Then, we asked how their relationship helps BreeOnna, an SWSG College Mentor, in her role mentoring elementary school girls. Check out their answers!
Tell me a little about yourself.
Jessica McCort, SWSG Strong Leader: I am a professor at Point Park University in the Department of Literary Arts. I teach classes in writing and literature and have been at Point Park for three years. I am deeply interested in fairy tales, as well as gender and women’s studies. I also teach fitness classes on the side as well as having 2 daughters, ages 13 and 7. This is my first year with the Strong Women, Strong Girls organization!
BreeOnna Springer, SWSG College Mentor: I’m entering my senior year at Point Park University, studying dance as well as sports, arts, and entertainment management. I have a minor in musical theater. This will be my third year with Strong Women, Strong Girls, and I’ll be a Chapter Director for Point Park in the fall. I am also a part of the Miss America organization.
When did you first get involved in SWSG?
Jessica: I decided after the last election that I wanted to get more involved in community organizations that were furthering the goals of young girls and women. I looked up women’s organizations in Pittsburgh and Strong Women, Strong Girls stood out to me. It also came through the Point Park University internship opportunities. I got into reading about it through that advertisement. With my background – I came from a small town south of Pittsburgh that was deeply blue-collar – having women mentors helped me, so I wanted to do the same for another girl or woman.
Bree: I learned about SWSG my sophomore year from the involvement and activity fair at Point Park. I started mentoring and found that I loved my chapter and what we and SWSG do for the girls! I’ve mentored at two sites every semester since I’ve been a part of the organization, as well as getting involved in the executive side of the organization.
How has the Strong Leader program benefited you?
Jessica: I really enjoy meeting with Bree. We talk about interview tactics, life in general, etc. and I like talking to her. It is a good opportunity for me to give back to a younger woman. I always try to give advice when I feel I can. My strength is helping students who are passionate and driven. Bree is one; she goes above and beyond in every aspect of her life. I like working with young people like that!
Bree: It gives me an outlet on things that I handle week to week, away from family. It is good to talk about issues and challenges that I experience as I go through college and develop my professional career. Jess provides a more level headed opinion on advice.
Jess, what impact have your previous mentors had on you?
Jessica: My mentors have had a huge impact. My mother is a strong woman, but she wasn’t afforded the opportunity to use her skills in the way that she would have liked, as she was not able to attend college. That said, she went on to become successful in her own way, through hard work and determination. There were two women in particular that had a large impact on me and my career. One was my high school English teacher, Mrs. Teagarden. She really pushed me to pursue my passion inn writing and literature. The second was a professor in college, Virginia Smith, who took me under her wing and pushed me to go to graduate school.
What is your favorite part about being/having a Strong Leader?
Jessica: I feel really connected to Bree. It was nice for me to step out of the role of a teacher and interact in a mentor role with a student in a different way. I like having influence outside of the classroom, but still with a student of Point Park. I’d like to meet more often than we do, but we both have busy schedules. We also are friends on Facebook and keep up on social media so we can be updated on one another’s lives and see what we are both up to when we aren’t able to meet up sometimes.
Bree: I really wanted a mentor through college. I grew up with a mentor through church and I really enjoyed having that relationship with someone older and more experienced than me. I was excited to connect with someone like Jess. It’s nice to have someone who understands what I’m doing and going through and has advice or will help if I feel I need it or feel that I may be struggling with something.
What is your favorite memory from SWSG?
Jessica: I thought the Strong Leader training was really interesting. There was good information about the organization and they talked about different organizations in the city and other things to be involved in that share similar missions and I really enjoyed being educated on that. They gave us a launch pad for other ways to get involved with these particular social issues/causes.
Bree: My favorite memory was the last field trip at Point Park when the girls came to visit the campus. It was exciting to see girls coming to college, which is something that they might not have been exposed to before becoming a part of SWSG. They had lots of questions about what they could do with their futures and I loved being able to show them around and give them hope for whatever they want to do with their lives.
Would you recommend the Strong Leader program to those in search of a mentor or those in SWSG who do not currently have a Strong Leader? Why/why not?
Jessica: Definitely. We take a little quiz when looking for a mentee to best match interests and availability of both the Strong Leader, as well as the college woman. In those surveys, I recommend being detailed, it helps people match up well and create a more genuine mentoring opportunity. It also helps establish connection as Strong Women Strong Girls typically tries to match professional women with a college woman with some kind of similarities.
Bree: Yes, tell them that even if they don’t find the perfect match but to keep trying. Just because you can’t meet a lot, doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected and have a great mentoring relationship.
Bree, did having a Strong Leader help you as a mentor to the young girls?
Bree: Yes, it really helped in difficult situations. Sometimes they see you as a friend or as an authoritative figure and it becomes difficult to make sure you are in the right position or standing with them. It’s hard to balance becoming a mentor. Having someone who exemplifies that and can answer any questions is very helpful. Jess is an example of a great mentor that I try to mimic for the young girls that I mentor.
If you’re interested in becoming a Strong Leader or getting one, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.