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Mentor Monday: How did the pandemic affect mentorship?

With schools teaching virtually and social distancing the rule, how were local students and mentors able to maintain connections amid COVID?

CLEVELAND — Every Monday in March is Mentor Monday at WKYC Studios. We shine a spotlight on some of the most important people in a student’s life – mentors. With COVID still of worldwide concern and social distancing now a habit for many, how has the relationships between mentors and their mentees held up?

The word “mentor” is defined in the dictionary as “an experienced and trusted adviser.” Cleveland State nursing student Kelara Agban says her mentor Sheryl has been that and more - helping her stay on track when fears of becoming a nurse amid a pandemic shook her resolve.

"She is the greatest person ever, honestly. I'll say 'Sheryl, I don’t know if I can do this. This is so hard.' And she’s always like 'Kelara, the first thing I asked you was why you want to go into nursing, and you told me it’s because you care about people, and that’s why you’re doing this. You need to remember why you’re doing this,'" says Agban.

Sheryl Feeney, Kelara’s longtime mentor and CSU’s nursing research lab supervisor, says motivating Kelara during such uncertain times wasn’t easy.

"We basically talked every day. She would call me with her concerns and we would work them out together. I can tell you it was a challenge, first of all, because I, too, didn’t know what was going to happen," Says Feeney.

Recent Baldwin Wallace theater graduate Alexcia Ambroz had to attend her junior and senior years virtually, due to COVID. Her mentor Connie saved her from quarantine burnout by helping her focus on the craft they share in common.

"Connie does a lot of theater in the Cleveland area. It was really nice having someone to kind of help me through that, and weigh the benefits of either being a full-time actor or having a stable job," says Ambroz.

Now a mentor herself, Ambroz says she sees the social toll the pandemic has taken on her high school students in a tech-obsessed world.

"Sometimes they think that we’re picking on them or being a bully when we ask them to put their cell phone away. They’re so connected to technology, so it’s really affected them in a way for them to, like, communicate in person," says Ambroz.

And when it comes to mentorship, communication is key and human connection is vital. COVID, at times, may have bent those bonds, but didn’t break them.

"Connie and I still talk today. We were actually supposed to make breakfast plans, this reminds me," says Ambroz.

The pandemic has made the demand for mentors as strong as ever, but it’s also made it harder for organizations to recruit them. This is why WKYC Studios is stepping in to help. Through our Mentor Monday campaign, we have recruited 163 mentors, but we still need 112 more to reach our goal of 275 mentors.There are only a few days left to apply. The deadline is this Friday April 1st. You can sign up at collegenowgc.org.

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