National Mentoring Month: Our Mentors

 

alexandria_mentoring_partnershipAs part of National Mentoring Month, ACT for Alexandria is talking about their mentors. Learn more about how you can be a mentor to someone this month: 10 Things You Can Do for National Mentoring month

John Porter - Executive Director

While a number of individuals have been instrumental to me in my life and in my career pursuits, initial credit for mentorship has to go to James Wilson.  Dr. Wilson presently serves as principal of the T. C. Williams Satellite Program but my first year of teaching in 1969 found me paired with Jim as a team teacher at Parker Gray Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia.  Still believing I learned more my first few months on the job than I ever learned about teaching at college, I can’t stress strongly enough the role Jim played in mentoring me through that difficult first year.  He had a wealth of experience compared to me (one year of teaching in southwest Virginia) but brought a wealth of knowledge and knowhow about working with kids.  Had it not been for James Wilson, there is a strong possibility I may not have stayed in education and been able to touch the lives of the many kids I was fortunate enough to work with during my forty years in the Alexandria City Public Schools.  Thank you James Wilson for ALL you did for me and continue to do for others.

 

Heather Scott - Chief Operating and Development Officer

A great mentor to me was Terry Mazany, CEO at the Chicago Community Trust. I had the pleasure of working with Terry when he chaired the board I staffed and I learned a great deal from him about patience and timing. There were a number of issues where I wished for a quick resolution to challenges and he coached me through the process, gently reminding me that sometimes you have to let situations play out. Also, he encouraged me to keep my eye on the prize and let a difficult environment swirl around me which helped me focus in difficult organizational times.

 

Brandi Yee - Chief Program Officer 

I’m not sure if she knows it, but Jonelle Stachura Wallmeyer, was my mentor.  Jonelle was the founding Executive Director of the Alexandria Community Trust, now ACT for Alexandria.  When I first started at ACT, I knew nothing about Alexandria or community foundations, but I quickly learned by example. She had a great passion for the work we were doing and it was contagious.  She knew just how empower me to take risks and face challenges.  It was just a team of two of us and it was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. She is one of the hardest working people I know, but she strived to maintain a work-life balance and encouraged me to do the same.  

While my mentor “retired” from ACT in July 2009, I am still learning from her.  Jonelle is now a full-time mom who continues to encourage and inspire me.  She and her kids often visit the office bringing samples of their Food Network cooking treats, she leads a Bible Study at her church and serves on the Center for Alexandria’s Children board.  Mentors at work are vital and I am so thankful for her investment in my life professionally, but more importantly, I am so grateful for the way she invested in me personally.       

As a result of Jonelle’s influence and working for ACT, I now have a great passion for local philanthropy, community engagement and the nonprofit sector.  I am honored to say I have been at ACT for over six years and continue to love the work I am doing and the community we serve.   

 

Aisha O'Brien - Community Engagement Associate 

It might seem odd that my musical background got me to where I am today, but it did. One vocal teacher in particular, Christine Seitz, helped learn how to learn. When it comes to going beyond your limits and stretching yourself, you have to know how to learn. It may seem rudimentary, but rarely are kids - like me - taught how to solve their own problems by coming up with their own solutions. Many of us memorized formulas but never came up with our own...or even shown how to. That's where Seitz comes in. It wasn't enough to do scales and memorize the notes and lyrics - I had to navigate the living instrument that is my voice. And with that came challenges that only I could come up with the unique solution to. This broke down the walls for me to learn a host of new skills - graphic design, website development, marketing and PR, engagement - the skills I use today. But that's not all. Music taught me focus, discipline, creativity, and collaboration. The tools everyone needs to succeed in any career. So thank you, Christine, you taught me how to go beyond the practice room and onto the stage of life. 

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