Brenda and Aiyonna
Matched in 2016
Five years ago, newlyweds Brenda Fike and husband Scott Spector moved here to take over running her father-in-law’s Bay Imprint business in Easton. Not knowing many people at that time, Fike looked to become involved with something that suited her work schedule. When Talbot Mentor’s (TM) board member, Merrilie Ford walked into the store to order a TM banner, Brenda learned about this small organization, similar to Big Brother/Big Sister, that existed in her community.
Recalling her own childhood, Brenda knew it ‘takes a village’ to raise a child and she recognized that this is where she could immerse her sense of community responsibility and compassion. As a former teacher and camp counselor, Brenda was well-aware that some children could benefit from a little extra time with an adult and was drawn to the one-on-one relationship she could develop.
Brenda found the comfort and confidence she needed to make the commitment to a child “knowing the support Talbot Mentors provides, the initial training I received, and the TM sponsored events and activities offered.” She also felt the commitment of a couple of hours a week was flexible for her work schedule. “Going to local parks, watching Pixar films, TM sponsored events such as bowling, and other youthful activities makes me more connected to kids these days. I’ve also made new friendships through Talbot Mentors and my mentee’s extended family network.” To Brenda, “this mentorship gives me (good) distractions from the current National events and it’s a motivator to get me out of the office once a week.”
Brenda teared up remembering when her eight-year-old mentee told her: “When I’m having a bad day at school I pretend you’re there with me and I think about the fun things we’ll do together when I see you.” Her mentee suggested her favorite things to do together are: “going to the parks, playing tennis, making brownies, eating at Subway, and helping me with homework.” Recently Talbot Mentors organized horseback riding for them and they LOVED it. When asked her favorite thing about Brenda, she said with a warm, loving smile “the sparkles in her eyes and her smile. Oh, and her dog.”
Brenda has enjoyed the past two years watching her mentee’s growth and developing maturity. Reflecting on her experience thus far, Brenda says, “I thought being a Mentor would be all about me giving…but, it’s not one-sided. I’ve enjoyed finding friendship.”
“When I’m having a bad day at school I pretend you’re there with me and I think about the fun things we’ll do together when I see you.”
— Aiyonna, Mentee
Cycle of Inspiration: A Tale of Two Mentors
Merrile and Dulce, Jazmine and lai
Dulce and ‘Lai are benefitting from the guidance of two individuals who have known each other for a long time. And under very interesting circumstances. You see, 12 years ago Merrilie (now an 80-year-old Long & Foster real estate agent who paints her nails two shades of blue) became Jaz’s mentor. Now 24, Jaz—who works at Talbot Mentors—has had ‘Lai under her wing for a year and a half.
The girls draw pictures while their mentors talk with me about their ever-widening mentoring experiences.
“Do you still consider yourself Jaz’s mentor?” I ask Merrilie.
“A little bit,” she says, “though she teaches me as much as I teach her.”
What I see are two equals, two mentors devoted to widening the horizons of two girls who clearly revel in their attention.
Merrilie and Jaz banter like best friends, finishing each other’s sentences, validating ideas, and smiling a lot. Each never seems to miss a chance to extol the other’s virtues.
What has Jaz learned from Miss Merrilie? Are there things she picked up that now inform her own style of mentoring?
“Patience,” she offers.
“That’s interesting,” Merrilie adds. “I don’t consider that my strong suit. It’s nice to know that I am seen as someone who exercises patience!”
“Kindness. . .how to be a good listener,” Jaz continues.
Merrilie jumps in: “Jaz is a good listener. On a bus ride to New York City, many years ago, we talked—and listened—for hours. When we drove to D.C. on art trips we never turned on the radio. We had conversations.”
Steering the conversation to the nuts and bolts of mentoring, Jaz notes that the crux of it revolves not around grand excursions to D.C. or New York but rather on the “just being together, in the moment,” she says. “When I was a young mentee, we would walk Miss Merrilie’s dog. I loved that. I also remember a trip to the post office, where I got to go behind the scenes.” Fast forward to the present: “One day with ‘Lai, I started to sing, something that is not my strong suit!” ‘Lai, marvelously unfiltered, started to laugh at her, but Jaz wouldn’t stop singing—“poorly”—until she herself succumbed to giggles. That was a moment.
It’s collections of small moments—between adult and child—that powers mentoring.