Emily Gillenwater | Kent State University

Emily Gillenwater

As an academic mentor in the CCS program at Kent State, I have grown exponentially as an individual, as well as a professional. The program has bettered my life in numerous ways. I find myself looking forward to the next day every time that I am leaving a shift. Mentoring has helped me prepare for my future career. I have learned how to talk to individuals in a variety of situations, how to encourage others to see qualities that they already possess within themselves, and I have learned how to show students self-advocacy. In truth, I have gained a sense of appreciation for the beautiful minds that are overlooked constantly. I believe that I will be a stronger, more observant teacher. Being a mentor in this program has shown me that it is beneficial for students when you address problem behaviors, rather than ignoring them. Everything that you have to do may not always be pleasant, but it will help in the long run. I have become more observant in the opportunities presented in attending classes with students. A part of the program is observing both good and bad. This is something that I have learned throughout my experience in CCS. I have undoubtedly gained confidence, understanding, and endless skills for my future as a professional.

My relationships with students in the program are something that I value. As much as I would like to believe that I am helping them, they are helping me equally. A lot of students have taught me patience, understanding, appreciation, and to be able to laugh it off when something goes wrong. I truly don’t think that it’s possible for me to speak highly enough of these individuals. I know that every day is going to be something different, but something meaningful. What I have also learned is that everyone has their own amazing talents and interests. I definitely treasure that.

Every day is an opportunity to observe growth in the students. Whether it be a small or large steps, it’s apparent that they are growing undoubtedly. We are halfway through the semester and it’s night and day from week one. Students are able to take control of their own schedules, transportation planning, and communication to staff. I think that this is a valuable experience for students in CCS. The students are taken out of their comfort zones, and become their own people. When you are uncomfortable, you are growing. This is college.  This is change. I believe that this is an experience which causes growth in knowledge, independency, as well as finding yourself.

I observe students struggle every day. I see students struggle to find their own voice. I see students struggle to take charge of their own lives. I see students struggle to become independent. But if you read over this once more, these are struggles that we all face when coming to college. I know I did. At the same time, I see students improve every day. I see students begin speak up for themselves and state their needs or wants. I see students grab the reigns more and more, beginning to take charge. I see students start to rely on themselves over time. While this is hard for me, as a mentor, because I want to be there-it’s amazing. This is what it’s all about.

There are no amount of words that I could say to express my gratitude for being a part of this. There are also no amount of words that I could say to express what an amazing program it truly is.