by Meg Rieger '02
Editor's note: Meg Rieger '02 began mentoring a Waterville fourth grader earlier this year in the Colby Cares About Kids program. A Spanish major and education minor, Rieger plans to go into teaching after graduation. She was asked by Colby why she is a mentor and what she thinks she is accomplishing. This is an excerpt of her response.
I can devote my attention and interest to one little person who has . . . big dreams for herself and for her future. I can be someone who shows her that if she keeps the tough and persistent attitude she has at age 11, she can take down big challenges and hopefully improve her life.
Working with my "mentee" has allowed me to see beyond statistics and developmental theory and to gain a more real perception of what being an 11-year-old girl is like today in a community such as Waterville. It helps me to read and interpret the social constructions I have learned so much about in my education courses.
I think many Colby students really take for granted the position that they hold in society. Being a white, middle-class woman, and a student at Colby, has placed me in a position of power and privilege in society. By being a friend and role model to a child who comes from a less privileged background, I give my attention, encouragement and compassion to someone who really needs it. If I can make a difference in the life of one child, I have begun to fulfill the responsibility that comes with the comfort and safety I often take for granted in my life.
I want to add that mentoring has not been without reward for me personally. Twice a week, I get to be the "coolest person, so much fun and wicked smart" in the eyes of a fourth grader. To hear a child refer to me as "my Colby student" puts a smile on my face and makes me realize that I am something special to her. She shows me off in the lunch line and on the playground and writes about me in her sentences for language arts. We swing on the swings and talk about events in her life, problems she is having and what she wants to be when she grows up. She tells me she wants to be a Colby student like me, and then she wants to be a doctor.
After recess I walk her to class and say goodbye, and I return to campus and to being just an ordinary person again. I leave mentoring each day excited to be a part of the life of this child and excited by all the potential I see in her. She encourages me that even when faced with adversity, dreams can persist and hopefully will come true.
© Colby College Colby Magazine Spring 2002 firstname.lastname@example.org