Every year, Dorothy mentors 45 high school students, some of which she’s mentored since middle school. Her approach is simple but impactful: connecting with her students through similarities in life experiences. Read more below.
When I think of mentorship, I envision a strong, positive and healthy relationship between student and adult. A relationship that involves the reciprocation of knowledge and experience while listening and making connections in a safe space. In essence, a mentor is a person that encourages, motivates, and maintains a tight grip on the bar of expectations.
As Breakthrough’s Associate Director of Manor High School Programs, this is the approach I take for the 45 high school students I mentor every year, some of which I’ve mentored since they were in middle school. The stories I could share! It’s been an amazing ride thus far, and I’m thankful I get to play a small part in their journey.
One of the coolest things about our job is our longevity and holistic approach to student success. We have the ability to step back and assess the whole student, in order to pull in the right resources to create an individualized plan of support, and THAT is pretty fulfilling to say.
As academic mentors, a large part of our role is to ensure all students stay on track to graduation. It’s important to note that there is flexibility in the process to accommodate our students’ needs. For students who require that side-by-side assistance, we’re able to go into schools and advocate on their behalf. We don’t want any of our Breakthrough students to get “lost in the mix” and have created partnerships to work with school counselors, teachers, principals, and community partners to ensure this doesn’t happen, and each student has the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. One huge asset we get, because of our longevity and holistic approach, is the ability to stay connected to students and their families beginning at such a young age. We are able to call parents and guardians to loop them into the academic conversation early, which increases student success and engagement. Many of these conversations have helped maintain a strong bridge between school and home, which has been an area of growth for many districts in my experience.
I’ve approached mentorship by reflecting on my life experiences and identifying life events when I could have used a trusted and loving adult in my life, that wasn’t a parent. There are situations that I witness my students go through that mirror similarities to my personal experience and, through these links, I’m able to connect with them on a different, honest, and authentic level. I’m continuously pushing myself to be the person and support system I wish I had at such a young age.
I often find myself telling my students the same thing when working through difficult conversation or heavy situations: I’m going to share knowledge, I’m going to be honest with you even when you don’t want to hear it, and I’m always going to love you and be there for you no matter what. I want to provide a style of mentoring that offers them an outlet to share their experience with no judgement and gives them access to a thought partner who will help them brainstorm next steps. And, that’s just it. A huge part of mentorship is knowing when to step up or step back, whether it be to offer help, a kind ear, that loving push, or big hug when they need it most.
Associate Director of High School Programs, Manor
Dorothy Vasquez has a history of working with at-risk youth in and around, the Austin area. She was born and raised in East Austin and lucky enough to participate in the Young Scientist program at Zavala Elementary, that later led to magnet feeder schools until college. Dorothy holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Texas Lutheran University and a Master’s in Organizational and HR Development from Abilene Christian University. Before coming to Breakthrough, Dorothy initiated her career at AISD and later held multiple positions at the Boys & Girls Club of Austin. She is a strong supporter of Youth Program Quality (YPQ) and has experience as a Quality Coach.