Our Stories: Championing our future: mentoring matters

Christine with her mentor CathyFifteen years ago, Cathy, a then graduate student in Physiology at Western University entered a Grade 10 classroom for her very first Let’s Talk Science Outreach visit.

Little did she know that this first visit would become the most important step in her long-term commitment to science outreach.

The teacher of the class she visited had identified a young female student named Christine who was struggling in school, in hopes that Cathy might try to engage her. Christine was failing three classes and had begun to hang out with unmotivated peers. Thinking a mentorship might be helpful, the teacher also encouraged Christine to seek out a connection with Cathy.

Christine took his advice and found that, like her, Cathy had grown up in a household with strict immigrant parents. This core connection made the young student feel comfortable and open to the idea of a mentoring relationship. She then became open to and intrigued by the idea of experiencing science first hand.

That summer, instead of hanging out with a potentially damaging crowd, she began to spend time with Cathy in her laboratory at the university. The positive experiences Christine had that summer changed her entire outlook – on school, on life and on her future.

In Grade 11, she passed all of her classes with a dramatic improvement in her grades. Inspired by Cathy, she was motivated to excel beyond what she thought were her limitations.

After graduating from high school, Christine went on to complete a university degree in political science, get a great job, marry and then balance her life with two children.

Through it all, Cathy continued to be a life mentor to Christine. The two have maintained a special bond through the years, being involved and supportive in each other’s lives. “It’s an example of mentorship at its nicest level,” explained Cathy.

The three-way connection of an involved teacher, a dedicated volunteer role mode and a student willing to give science a chance gave a young life a whole new direction and forged profound relationships.

Next to parents and educators, role models and mentors like Cathy have the most significant influence over youth choices. At Let’s Talk Science, our diverse national network of volunteers inspire and guide youth, helping open doors to the future.