Community members still finding ways to mentor youth amid pandemic

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While many organizations have had to cease operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central New Mexico. Nydia Villezcas and Ann Lechuga a mentor-mentee duo who have never actually met in person, but often keep in touch. They got paired up shortly after quarantine began earlier in the year as part of the Mentor 2.0 program.

The program matches high school students with college-educated mentors and provides them with the support they need to graduate high school and succeed in college and the workforce, according to their website. Lechuga is a student at Amy Biehl High School, a charter school in Albuquerque. She said she and her mentor communicate once a week through a messaging app. “Sometimes we talk about our day or our pets, sometimes we’re given a prompt that’s usually career-oriented, like what our goals for the future are,” Lechuga said.

Mentors meet with their mentees once a month over a video call, where they can see each other through the screen. “It’s nice to have our meet-ups, even if they are through Zoom,” Villezcas said. “We try to keep it creative and we get to know a little more about each other each time.”

Growing up, Villezcas had support from her family but wished she had someone to help guide her through college and career decisions. “I think through mentorship, it provides that ability for these students to reach out to someone aside from family members,” Villezcas said. “I just kind of wish I had something like this growing up.”

The Mentor 2.0 program is usually a required class for Amy Biehl students, but due to a recent shortage of mentors, the school asked students if they would like a mentor. Lechuga took the opportunity to have some help when planning her future, which is how she and Villezcas got partnered together.

Lechuga said her time with Villezcas has allowed her to have another helpful perspective in making decisions and goals for the future in addition to her family. More than that, she said this program has provided her with someone to talk to during such isolating times. “It’s nice because it’s like having another person to ground you. It’s something that helps you be yourself and have connections with those people.”

Lechuga said doing something as simple as having a weekly conversation has helped her feel productive during this year, even when she didn’t feel like it. “Having that system of communicating once a week kind of gives you that feeling of, ‘Oh, I actually accomplished something because it’s not how I feel most days,” Lechuga said.

She said it’s easy to let the quarantine make her feel isolated, especially after losing touch with people who she used to see almost every day, but the monthly video chats help remind her that there’s a person behind those weekly text conversations.

For more information on volunteering, visit the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central New Mexico website.

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