If you ask someone why they are a mentor, they might say, “It’s important to give back.” If you ask Tiffany why she mentors, she might say, “It’s important to form a bond with someone, in order to make a difference.”
A San Diego native, Tiffany Stecker-Gustavson moved to Washington, DC in January 2011 to start a new career. Also interested in volunteer opportunities, she immediately looked around to see where there was a need. Tiffany’s no stranger to volunteering, but felt there was a small disconnect in her experiences. She really wanted to have an on-going relationship with someone. Learning about Community of Hope’s opportunities through a Yelp discussion board, she applied and was matched with then 12-year old, Dasha. By November 2011, their relationship was forming and blossomed into something so strong and so beautiful.
Mentoring provides an extra layer of security and hope to a young person. Knowing that there is someone else who truly cares about them, assures them that they’re not alone in situations, and makes them feel that they have a voice in this world produces positive effects on a young person.
“I mentor because it creates a life-long relationship.”
New experiences for Tiffany and Dasha became fond memories. She remembers their first interaction and describes the time they went to the National Mall Downtown. “We were walking around, getting to know one another and we saw a pond with all of these ducks. She was so fascinated by them and it was so cute. She was really into it.” Almost right away, Tiffany realized that Dasha shared an interest in art, so some of their outings included going to the National Gallery of Art and ballet performances. In her later years, Dasha developed a passion and skill for drawing and illustrations – something that Tiffany encouraged her to pursue further. Tiffany has also been her biggest supporter by attending her various athletic games and cheering her on from the stands.
Socially, Tiffany has seen positive effects over the years from being a part of Dasha’s life. From being a shy, reserved child, Dasha has grown into a confident, strong young woman. “In the beginning it was really up to me to prompt the conversation and get things out of her,” she said. “Now, she does most of the talking.” Over the years, she’s also seen her become much more confident in school and interested in receiving good grades on assignments and school projects.
While only 2 hours a month is required for mentors to meet with their mentee, Tiffany goes above that number, averaging about 3.5-4 hours a month. If we were to do the math, from the time Tiffany and Dasha connected, they have spent a total of 154 hours together.
Sadly, their time has come to an end. The mentoring program ends once the youth is 18 years old. But that isn’t going to stop them. They both plan to stay in touch outside of the program for as long as they need to and support each other like they have been doing over the last 6 years.
“I learned how strong she [Dasha] was very early, based on her background and environment,” Tiffany said. “I understand how hard it is growing up, being a teenager, and having family issues. I applaud her resilience and strength.”
In the spring, Tiffany plans to attend Dasha’s high school graduation, cheering her on.
We’re very proud of Tiffany, Dasha, and all of our mentors/mentees! If you would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities and to become a mentor, visit www.communityofhopedc.org/mentor.