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Vivy Chao Headshot

Coming to Terms About Mentorship

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Mentors -- I still don't have one. But I'm going to talk about finding mentors. For approximately six years, beginning in 2006, I had searched aimlessly for my elusive mentor. The reason I set my goal to find a mentor was because I had read articles after articles on "how to network" and "the importance of connections." This was in addition to hearing folks who had "made it" share how the people they knew gave them the opportunities to achieve even more. Needless to say, I jumped on the bandwagon right away and searched for someone who could pave the path to my college presidency one day. In my head, I had imagined my reign, and it had a snazzy soundtrack that went along with it. This has yet to happen.

Often times what is failed to mention about mentorship is that it is difficult to develop that relationship. That relationship is so difficult to develop because it can be seen as a one-way street. This one-way street situates the mentee as the taker and the mentor as the giver. In addition, one first has to pinpoint a person whom he or she would like to be mentored by. This process is also difficult.

Somewhere in the third year of my search, I finally learned that what is important to me is seen as time consuming to someone else. I think this was so difficult for me to accept because I regularly volunteered my time to mentor my students; both officially through programs and unofficially when they needed it. It was a wake up call. During this period I also learned that not all those who sit in managerial positions are leaders. In fact, few people can be considered leaders.

Fast forward to 2013. I spent several months researching different education-based organizations in order to learn about the changing landscape and broaden my perspective. By accident, I came across Education Pioneers while Googling another organization. I studied Education Pioneers' website and came to the conclusion that I really liked what I was seeing. This was a progressive organization that began as a startup and aimed to change urban education's efficiency and effectiveness by creating a pipeline of top leadership and management talent through two different Fellowships -- Graduate School and Analyst. I remember looking at the deadline for the Graduate School Fellowship and realized that it was coming up in under two weeks! I quickly made the decision to apply to be a Fellow and then crossed my fingers. I joke that Google introduced me to Education Pioneers. After four grueling rounds of the application process, I learned at the end of February of this year that I was accepted as a Fellow in the Los Angeles cohort. The Fellowship is now coming to an end, but I am so grateful for the connections that I had the opportunity to build.

Through Education Pioneers I finally learned what actual mentorship is about. The Los Angeles cohort has a fabulous program manager who actively connects Fellows with people she feels would benefit from the relationship. Yes, she deserves a pay raise, Mr. Scott Morgan, CEO of Education Pioneers. Because Education Pioneers is a vetted organization, people have been considerably more receptive to introductions made. The activities hosted by Education Pioneers have also been very educational and helpful because the Fellows are given access to the key people of organizations that affect change in education.

Even though I still don't have a person whom I call my very own mentor, I've learned that it's okay. My experiences have provided me the outlet to grow. I've also learned that there are people who don't look like the ones I've imagined to be helpful, but end up being the most helpful. The biggest lesson here is don't disrespect.