The Ripple Effects of Mentorship: Bianca Samayoa
What does it really mean to have someone, a mentor, change your life? The concept of being part of that change can sometimes feel idealistic, but Bianca Samayoa, a first year AmeriCorps member serving at Maya Angelous High School, reminds us from personal experience that simply being a friend and listening to understand is all it takes.
Bianca attended Carver Middle School and Santee High school in South L.A. where our AmeriCorps members served. It’s there that she met her City Year mentor, Ms. Jenny (Jenny Camacho). Ms. Jenny came to her school in a bright yellow jacket that was spotted from miles away and when the two met, they changed each other’s lives forever. Below she shares how her mentor changed her path and how she now plans to help students like herself.
Who is Ms. Jenny?
A: Ms. Jenny was my City Year [mentor]. I was on her Focus List* [at Santee High School]. Shout out to Jenny. She’s number one.
How did having City Year, including Ms. Jenny, impact you when you were a student?
A: It had one of the biggest impacts on me and sent me in a direction that led me to where I am today. The type of patience [Ms. Jenny] gave me was something that I’ll never forget. It’s different with City Year mentors than with teachers because they’re a little bit on the younger side so it’s a little bit easier to connect and understand.
How was school for you in middle school and high school?
A: I was kind of an angry kid, in general. I was still very happy and hyper, but I was somebody who was easily frustrated with other people and with myself, especially in math. In class, I wasn’t understanding the work, I learned math slower. The teacher was good, [but] taught really fast and while that worked for other kids, it didn’t work for me, so I would get angry. Ms. Jenny recognized that quickly and she would come around and say, “Hey, it’s okay, if you’re not getting this, let’s try like that.” I would only see one way to do it but then [Ms. Jenny] offered other ways to do it.
What are you looking forward to as you pay it forward as a City Year mentor?
A: I’m looking forward to making a difference. I recognize that I may not be like Jenny exactly, but I hope that I’m going in the same direction. My hope is that students realize that I’m there for them and to help them. I hope in the future, they think back, saying, “Ms. Bianca was that person who supported me when no one did.”
Has there been an encounter with a student you felt good about?
A: There was a student who was frequently struggling in the classroom. I found the student before class and I asked him, “Hey, do you need to talk to me about anything? Is there anything you want to tell me? Anything you want to get off on your chest right now before we walk into class”. We had a long conversation about why the student was distracted and what he needed, and it was really helpful. After we had a good chat, we walked into class and the student did his work for the rest of the period. He just had something to say and wanted to be listened to so he could focus on his work.
Why are programs like CYLA important?
A: Programs like CYLA are important because schools need a little bit of extra help and not just academically. A lot of the work is social emotional work. To be a young kid and feel alone is tough but having this City Year mentor who understands you and sees you feels great. Being seen helps students a lot in re-evaluating themselves in school and what they need to get done in school and beyond.
If you want to make an impact with students like Jenny and Bianca, apply here.
*Focus List: A list of students corps members developed with collaboration from staff and manager to further support in academics.
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