Jacqueline Cruz-Ortega was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce. I attended the awards luncheon and enjoyed her speech. Jacqueline attributes her ability to reject the drug and gang lifestyle that was taking over her family and to become the educated, inspirational role model she is now through the […]
Jacqueline Cruz-Ortega was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce. I attended the awards luncheon and enjoyed her speech. Jacqueline attributes her ability to reject the drug and gang lifestyle that was taking over her family and to become the educated, inspirational role model she is now through the caring involvement of mentors. She ended her speech with a plea that we give our time and not give up on those community youth struggling with the same choices today that she struggled with: drugs, alcohol, gangs and family strife. There was hardly a dry eye in the room when Jacqueline concluded, and most people I’ve spoken to since have commented on how moved they were by her story. I hope they are moved to action and not just emotion.
Even prior to Jacqueline’s words, I had begun thinking about mentorship. I’ve always been fortunate to have had mentors throughout my life of strong, successful men and women who took an interest in my personal, leadership and academic development. I attribute some of my success to the good fortune of having their guidance and support. A good friend of mine has never had a mentor, which I find surprising and sad, and I can see how a lack of mentorship has affected his self-confidence as an adult, as well as his ability to make decisions about his future. I’ve wondered how it’s possible he made it into his mid-30s, graduated from college and hop-scotched through a succession of jobs without ever once being taken under the wing of someone older and wiser who wanted to help him grow or expand his horizons.
Do you see yourself as a mentor? For a long time, I did not. It shocked me when in my late 20s, a woman at my office in her early 20s wrote me a note saying how thankful she was that I would spend time with her, answering questions about her job, talking about my own career experience and giving her advice. She wrote that she valued my mentorship. And I remember thinking, “WHAT!? I’m not a mentor. I have mentors, but I’m not one.” But if she found our chats helpful, then great! The revelation allowed me to think of my own life and career experiences differently. I thought I needed a lot more life and job experience before I could be someone’s mentor, but she showed me mentorship can happen at any time.
Looking back, I’m somewhat disappointed now in the coaches, instructors and troop leaders who missed an opportunity to connect with me. Sports, classes and youth activities are often the best situations for mentorship to develop. But not for all kids, and definitely not for me. My mentors reached out to me and invited me to do something special outside a group. One-on-one chats or going to lunch, attending events as someone’s guest, or an activity together made the biggest impacts on me. The mentors for me who made the biggest impact (parents aside) were my Aunt Susan; the dean of the school of business at CSU Sacramento; my first two bosses, Jim Philips and John Hatfield (who remain in touch to this day)’ Elise Moritz, a co-worker; Bari Love, the head of PR at one of my ad agency jobs; Phil Rubin, a coworker; and a few local people.
I’m not sure if I could be considered a mentor to anyone at this point, and that bothers me. I intend to take action to rectify that (thanks, Jacqueline!), and I hope you will do the same.