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Testament to success of Mentor Me program

Earlier this summer, Lynn Camhi watched Leslie Mejia graduate from the University of California Berkeley, a defining moment of their remarkable 14-year relationship.

The two began their journey as mentor and mentee when Mejia was in the second grade at McNear Elementary, and they have been positively influencing the lives of one another ever since.

Mejia and Camhi were the first-ever mentorship for what is now Mentor Me, and they were an incredibly successful starting point for the prolific future of the Petaluma-founded organization.

They did not know each other until the onset of the mentorship.

“I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I thought it was super cool,” said Mejia of when she first met Camhi. At first, the two developed a friendly bond through just meeting and playing games once a week, strengthening the foundation for a lifetime of companionship.

Mejia was chosen for the program because she had already shown promise in school but needed another adult in her life to “show her more of the world and expose her to more things,” said Camhi. “She seemed to have so much going for her. Leslie was very accomplished as a second-grader in terms of her academics. She was gung-ho to do anything that I suggested,” she continued. However, Leslie was struggling with English as her second language.

Her parents “were from a different country, and they didn’t know about a lot of the things and opportunities available here that someone like Lynn could definitely provide for me,” noted Mejia.

Beyond the on-campus “mentor center” games, Lynn and Leslie visited places such as the Exploratorium and Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, various museums, exhibits, and art shows. Camhi described this as “any place that was within an hour or so, we went to, and we both had a marvelous time.”

“It was a really great way to get exposed to a lot of things that I would have never been exposed to at that young age. It had a big impact because then I was like ‘oh now I want to be a scientist, or I want to be an artist,’ ” said Mejia. “It allowed me to look beyond what I would have been able to at that age.”

They began to derive deeper value from the mentorship as they matured together.

“I knew she really cared about me and I really cared about her and I began to trust her and began to tell her about things going on at home and at school. Being open with her helped me get really close with her,” reflected Leslie.

“When she got into high school it was very rewarding for me to sit and talk about a book we had both read. It was like talking to a woman, a friend of mine who might be in a book club with me. She had very good analytical skills,” said Camhi, highlighting the two-way connection that they shared.

Mejia graduated from one the best universities in the nation in just three years, and is pursuing internships in the Bay Area related to her major in sustainable environmental design. “I have always gotten satisfaction from watching her advance,” said Camhi. “Her graduation from Berkeley was absolutely fabulous. It was very gratifying.”

Though the mentorship was officially over once Leslie moved on from Petaluma City Schools, the two continue to grow together and see each other. Leslie has been living in Berkeley for the past few years, but she has been meeting with Lynn and just catching up as old friends whenever she finds herself back in Petaluma.

Mentor Me looks to provide in-need children with adult companions for better futures. At the core, it seeks to fill a student’s life with something new and beautiful. Success is achieved in these relationships through mutual understanding and cooperation. “Knowing that my parents were appreciative and knowing that I could really count on Lynn to talk to her about different problems or issues that I would have was a great way to really connect with her,” said Mejia.

These bonds are being forged every day with Mentor Me’s current 392 active mentorships. Lynn and Leslie were the quintessence of this. “Seeing her and talking to her was just amazing. She almost felt like my grandma. My grandparents were all in Mexico so I didn’t grow up with a grandparent that close,” Mejia added.

Mejia encouraged new mentees to “really appreciate (the mentors) and take advantage of their knowledge. Ask them questions; ask them anything and everything. It is a different perspective from what you get in your family. It’s another really great resource.” She continued, “They’re all amazing people. They’re volunteering their time to help you so they are really going to be there for you.”