OT: The Power of Mentoring

I mentored a young lady, Nicole, from age 10, when she was in 5th grade, until she graduated simultaneously with a high school degree and AA from Peninsula College.

In 2010, I volunteered to help the science teacher at a local elementary school run an after-school Science Fair Club. I was impressed by Nicole, who was very intelligent with a quiet personality. Nicole won “Best in Age Group” in the Seattle Science Fair – an impressive achievement considering how many engineers and scientists live in Seattle.

Nicole was the youngest of three daughters. Her older sisters were more outgoing. Nicole felt that her identity was always ignored since everyone paid attention to the showier older sisters.

Nicole’s mother told me, “Nicole doesn’t have any interests. She will probably end up working at Wal-Mart.”

I answered, “I want to mentor Nicole. I will invite you and Nicole over for tea every Sunday.” (When Mom couldn’t bring Nicole, Grandma did.)

We met every Sunday from 2010 - 2018 for reading and discussions of many topics, including planning for a future career, working out with weights, social skills, etc.

I also recommended Nicole for a volunteer summer job at my local gym where the owner gave a special boxing class for people with Parkinson’s Disease. (“Rock Steady Boxing.”) This gave Nicole hands-on experience with physical therapy. Using her native calm politeness, Nicole related easily with the elderly Parkinson’s patients.

Nicole did Running Start during her junior and senior years of high school. She got over $100,000 in scholarship money to college. (Part of this was her athletic scholarship since she is a talented softball player and joined the college’s women’s softball team, which she now coaches.)

Nicole posted on Facebook yesterday, “I am so excited to announce that today I became a Doctor of Physical Therapy.” Yes, Nicole is now Dr. Nicole!

On the same day, her middle sister posted that she just graduated with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. The oldest sister graduated from Cal Polytech with a degree in engineering 4 years ago.

I feel that my mentoring of Nicole (and her mother at the same time) affected the trajectory of the whole family into the scientific professional class. Nicole’s father is a firefighter and her mother is an office worker. Although they are intelligent, hard-working people the rural working class usually doesn’t have the knowledge of how to work the system to become upper middle class or the strategic expectation of working for decades toward this goal.

I am currently mentoring the 11 year old son of a friend of mine over Zoom. Mom is a chemist and dad is an engineer but they are Chinese (naturalized American citizens) so we discuss the American system and how to succeed.

I think that one-on-one mentoring is valuable for all involved. I consider this one of the most worthwhile aspects of my life.



Well done, both you and Nicole.


Love this story. Happy for you and your mentee(s)!! :heart:




Congrats to Dr. Nicole and to Wendy.

My and my husband’s main work these days is mentoring and fundraising for scholarships for promising impoverished Mexican kids via this wildly successful bunch

The “secret sauce” of the organization’s success has been mentoring. Every student gets a trained mentor for a minimum of one monthly meeting, but often more. My mentee spent last summer as an intern at Facebook working on the math of the AI stuff they seem to be about to release.

What a joy.

I also do a lot of planting of the trees that once covered the denuded ranch lands for hundreds of kilometers around us (largely chopped and burnt to smelt the silver used to make most of the famous “pieces of eight” of the Spanish Empire).

Mentoring, as Wendy notes, gives pride and pleasure and connection. I think it also helps maintain a kindness and grace that the world is becoming ever more short of.

david fb


Love this, awesome job Wendy!! It is great to see the joy of success in Nicole’s face after years of hard work, congrats Wendy!!


This study confirms the power of mentoring.

Results across difference-in-differences and pair fixed-effect specifications show consistent and meaningful positive effects on student attainment, with a conservative estimate of a 9.4 percentage point increase in college attendance. Effects are largest for students of lower socioeconomic status and robust to controls for individual characteristics and bounding exercises for selection on unobservables.