Hyewon, a 12th grader in the midst of applying to colleges, is with College Access and Success Counselor Stephanie. Stephanie begins meeting with students regularly when they first join DTS in ninth grade, and she continues to check in with them weekly throughout college via FaceTime.
Q: How has your mentoring relationship evolved over the years?
Stephanie: Initially our relationship revolved around Hyewon’s academics, mostly me checking in on her grades and advising her through her academic struggles. Hyewon then invited me to an awards ceremony where she received a Korean leadership award, and I was immersed in her culture. Since then, Hyewon and I have a relationship that goes beyond academics. I have gotten to know her family values and her passion for helping those around her. I admire her tenacity and her dedication to giving a voice to the Korean American community.
Hyewon: It was when I opened up to Stephanie that she no longer was just a college counselor, but a life mentor as well. I’ve really changed how I view this very challenging college process by being more optimistic and being able to believe in myself.
Q: Stephanie, what are some of the challenges and rewards of mentoring a student?
Stephanie: The challenge as a mentor is to steer students in the right direction while gaining their trust. The reward is that you get to see them evolve over time. You get to be there when they doubt themselves going into the SAT and then you get to be there when they raise their score by 100 points. You are there to not only guide them, but to boost their confidence and show them how amazing they are.
Q: Hyewon, how has having a mentor impacted your journey to college?
Hyewon: Having a mentor gave me the encouragement as a young woman to seek higher education and have motivation to reach my goals. I have always been a little unsure of myself and it was hard to give myself credit for my accomplishments. Through Stephanie I was able to realize that I have value and that every step I took mattered.
Q: Final thoughts?
Stephanie: There are counselors with a case load of 600 students and even if they wanted to mentor each student, it is impossible. There are students like Hyewon out there, who have grit, are motivated, and eager to overcome their circumstances, but get lost in the sea of 600. DTS’s ability to mentor students one-on-one creates a bond and trust that lasts through high school, college and beyond.