Staff Spotlight: Rachel Benjamin, Mentor 2.0 Program Ambassador (AmeriCorp)
Mentor2.0 is a technology-enhanced one-to-one mentoring program that provides transformative one-to-one support for low-income and first-generation high school students to prepare them for high school success, college matriculation and workforce readiness. We currently work with Boston Green Academy (BGA) in Brighton and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy of Health Careers in the Fenway. This week we caught up with Rachel Benjamin—Mentor 2.0 Program Ambassador at BGA via AmeriCorps—about why she chose to complete her year of service with BBBSMB, her experiences working in our Mentor 2.0 program, and much more. Enjoy!
What drew you to commit to a year of service through AmeriCorps? Why did you choose to complete your year of service with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay?
I graduated from the University of Vermont this past May. Service was an integral part of my education, so I knew I wanted to carry that with me in the work I did after college. I’ve worked on the Development end of non-profits before and decided I wanted to make a shift to the Program side, so the Mentor2.0 Education Ambassador position was the ideal fit. I chose to complete my year of service with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, because I am very passionate about the mission and the huge strides BBBSMB has made in the youth development and mentoring field. In fact, it was one of my mentors who introduced me to the organization and thought it would be a great fit.
What does a typical day as a Mentor2.0 Education Ambassador look like? What are you currently working on?
I’d say there is no typical day as the Mentor2.0 Education Ambassador because every day is different. My supervisor, Cassie, and I spend 1-2 days a week at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers teaching a Mentor2.0 class to all the 9th grade students. The other days, I am typically in the office writing match support assessments, planning our monthly events, and helping with volunteer recruitment. Currently, I am planning our March Mentor2.0 pair event, which is about mentors & mentees identifying their success network or their ‘team’ (perfect for March Madness!).
What is most rewarding about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?
The most rewarding part of my job is when I see the growth our Mentor 2.0 matches have made already at only 5 months in. When students tell me their mentor has become ‘one of the most important people in my life,’ it makes my work so worthwhile. It is also incredibly rewarding to help the students, through both our classroom curriculum and conversations with their mentors, understand that they can be even more successful than they realize.
How would you describe the culture at BBBSMB?
One of my favorite things about the culture at BBBSMB is that everyone is so passionate about our mission and the mentoring work we do. It is motivating to work alongside people who love what they do and want the most positive, transformative relationships for our mentors and mentees. From the beginning, everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. We also have a very youthful culture, which I love.
AmeriCorps provides some training and professional development opportunities to their corps members. Can you share what those opportunities entail and how they have impacted your service year?
I am part of a cohort of about 20 other AmeriCorps volunteers who are placed at a variety of mentoring organizations across the state. Every month, we receive mentoring trainings from Mass Mentoring Partnership, as well as courses to pursue a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership. The opportunities to collaborate with my cohort and share the mentoring work we have been doing has been incredibly beneficial to my own professional growth.
Describe what you have learned about yourself as a result of your service.
During this year of service I’ve truly learned the importance of perseverance. Working with 14-16 year olds is both rewarding and challenging at the same time. Some days, the students are tired and do not want to engage with the material, so it is important that we encourage them to push through and keep going (even on Monday mornings).
What advice would you give to someone considering joining AmeriCorps?
If you’re interested in joining AmeriCorps, I would say make sure you are passionate and excited about the field you will be serving with. If the mission of your nonprofit motivates you, the hard work you will be putting in during your year of service will be so worth it!
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I just recently moved to Boston, so when I’m not working, I love exploring the different neighborhoods throughout the city. Although I grew up in the Midwest, I’ve wanted to live in Boston since I was 15. I’ve been enjoying discovering all the museums, coffee shops, and parks the city has to offer. I also love spending time with my friends and roommates, whether it’s going on weekend trips or trying new foods.