By JO EARLY
The Amarillo College Foundation recently began a mentorship project that connects AC students as mentees to AC Foundation board members who are interested in mentoring. The project is still in development, with a few mentorship pairs acting as a test group.
“Right now, we only have four students and four mentors, but our goal is to have more mentors in the future and find more students,” Salvador Gutierrez, a Foundation staff member, said.
Jose Pedroza, a psychology and social work major, recently met his mentor Alfonso Zambrano, AC Foundation board member, for the first time.
“We met in person at a restaurant,” Pedroza said. “It was our first-time meeting. We just talked about each other and stuff like that.”
Gutierrez said the idea for the project began with Alfonso Zambrano wanting to connect with students the way his mentor connected to him.
“It started because our Foundation board member Alfonso Zambrano asked if he could mentor a student,” Gutierrez said. “So, we found a student, Jose. When we were looking for Jose, we found another student interested in the mentorship project.”
Zambrano drew inspiration from mentors he had in school.“I was lucky to have several mentors throughout high school, college and early in my career,” Zambrano said.“From those experiences, I obtained an understanding and appreciation of having someone invested in your future and ultimate success,” he said.
Eric Darnell, AC Foundation board member, was next to volunteer as a mentor.
“I feel it’s critical for them to realize what their strengths are and how to leverage them in academia as well as in career pursuits,” Darnell said. “It is just as imperative to understand what areas of growth and opportunity for improvements they may need to focus on.”
The mentors are currently being matched with mentees based on a shared background, special interest and personality.
“Jose is heavily involved here, he’s a guy you see everywhere on campus, and Alfonso is like that in this community, so it’s a great match,” Joe Bill Sherrod, Foundation executive director and vice president of institutional advancement, said.
The mentorship project is a way for the AC Foundation to become more directly involved with students.
“What we want is to get the board members involved in the student community, be mentors for them, be leaders and guide them through questions about their professional lives and help them make connections,” Gutierrez said.
Sherrod believes making these personal connections, potential donations and interest in the college could rise.
“Right now, their advocacy is limited to what they know,” Sherrod said. “When they get to know a student and get to see the day in, day out routine of what the student faces, the student’s struggle in classes, or trying to get into university, the Foundation board member has a different story to tell in the community than if they were just serving on the board,” Sherrod said.
The project is currently in the process of finding more mentors for students.
“As soon as it’s reached a certain point, students can reach out to us for more information,” Gutierrez said. “We really want to make sure that these mentors have an impact and influence in these student’s lives,” said Gutierrez.
The long-term goal for the project is to get all Foundation board members involved.
“We’re just going to say this is a pilot project, and at the end of it I’d like to see everyone of our board members having a mentee,” Sherrod said.
The mentors and mentees that are currently involved are in the process of setting their individual goals.
“One thing that I hope to get from this mentorship is networking,” Pedroza said. “Hopefully a lot of doors can open up for me to meet new people or even get a good job with someone after college,” Pedroza said.
Zambrano also has a goal for the mentorship.
“I have been lucky enough to build strong friendships with my personal mentors, therefore, I’m hopeful that I can do the same with a mentee,” he said. “I’m also getting a little older now, so if a mentee can help me use my iPhone apps or help me understand TikTok, that would be great too.”