National Mentoring Month is recognized each January to focus attention on the need for and importance of mentors who volunteer their time to assure positive outcomes for young people. VBCPS is fortunate to have many individuals from the community, businesses, military, faith-based organizations and government agencies who mentor students in our schools. Their work will be highlighted on The Core throughout January.
In 2014, Diana Counts, vice president of marketing at Beach Municipal Federal Credit Union, delivered financial literacy presentations to more than 3,000 students. However, it was her work with one student that she called the best investment of her time.
“So many people say they simply don’t have time to be a mentor,” Counts said. “I say your time couldn’t be better spent.”
Ocean Lakes High School senior Triston Creekmore contacted Counts after one of her presentations and asked her to serve as his mentor for the field-based mentorship/research project required of all Mathematics and Science Academy (MSA) students. The capstone project includes 140 hours of independent work, a written summation of the experience and a multimedia, oral presentation.
“I was both flattered and humbled,”Counts said. “I was also very excited! Presenting in the classroom is one of my greatest joys, and now I’d have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student.”
And work they did.
Before getting started on any marketing projects, Counts wanted to ensure that Creekmore had an appreciation for a lesson she sees too many new hires, of all ages, have not embraced.
“No one is above any task, and we all do what needs to be done for the job and the organization. We all contribute to the team,” she said.
Filing, shredding papers, compiling event materials, breaking down boxes and other tasks described as “grunt work” by Counts were Creekmore’s first order of business. Counts is quick to point out that she never asks anyone to do something that she is not willing to do herself. She joined Creekmore in lifting boxes and other grunt work to benefit the credit union.
Amidst filing and shredding, Counts asked Creekmore to manage a marketing project she hoped would benefit him academically and professionally as well as help the credit union. Tapping into Creekmore’s expertise as a teenager, Counts asked him to evaluate The Pipeline, the credit union’s teen club, and make suggestions for rebranding.
“Who better than a teen to help us understand the needs of that demographic?”
She was not disappointed.
“I gave him demographic and statistical data to use as part of his evaluation and asked him to spend time with other employees to get their feedback,” explains Counts. “Triston has a brilliant mind, and he dug into the data with enthusiasm. He approached the project just as any marketing professional would and asked insightful questions.” She noted that Creekmore took the initiative to convene a focus group of current teen club members and non-members. He created the questionnaire, collaborated with the graphic designer on new creative options and tabulated all the results.
“Based on his work,” Counts says, “we are making changes to The Pipeline in 2015.”
Not only is Counts thrilled about having a revised teen program that, in her words, “actually appeals to teens,” but also that Creekmore secured a job as a marketing manager for an information technology company in Virginia Beach based on his field-based mentorship experience.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” she says. “Nothing compares to really getting know a student and watching them grow and expand their potential.”
When asked what she would say to others to encourage them to mentor a student, Counts said it’s the students themselves.
“Society likes to complain that the younger generation is lazy, has a sense of entitlement and doesn’t understand the ‘real’ world,” she said. “Anyone who spends time with teens will know they’re actually out-of-the-box thinkers who just see the world through a different lens. We have so much to teach them, but they’re teaching us just as much. We only need to listen.”