Sure, over the years I’ve helped younger, newer people. People working under me, folks new to a job, people trying to get a job. Newer members on a board of directors. Kids just out of school. Certainly I’ve given a lot of advice, requested or not (and heeded or not). But never have I actually applied to Be a Mentor.
And now I am.
My friend Shelley is at the center of all this. Since I had worked for many years as an LGBT activist and advocate, Shelley and her wife Joni started inviting me as their guest to a wonderful annual dinner sponsored by the Point Foundation, where Shelley serves on the Board of Regents, and is backed by the generosity and support of Wells Fargo, her employer. Since the girls live in Miami now, and I’m still in New York, it was a great way to see them and catch up, and the evening is always star-studded and glamorous.
But Shelley was no fool — oh, no. The point of the Point Foundation hit me right away; they provide college scholarships to LGBT kids — smart kids who needed money to get an education, kids who may have gotten kicked out of their own homes and had no recourse for finishing their education. High school students who needed a chance. Kids not as lucky as I was. Every year at the dinner, a Point Scholar would get up on stage and tell their story. The one that got me the most? A young woman from just a couple of years back who became a West Point cadet, but finally found that she couldn’t live with hiding her sexuality another day. When she outed herself, she was told to pack up and go. I couldn’t imagine making that sort of heart-wrenching life decision at nineteen, twenty years old.
The Point Foundation took her on, and helped put her through Yale. Take that, West Point.
Would I like to be a major donor? Sure, but I can’t afford that — so I asked Shelley if perhaps I could take part in their mentoring program. And thus I began the rigorous approval process from the Point Foundation. So far, I have answered a lengthy questionnaire, had a long phone interview, and written an essay. Then, evidently, I was put before the Board of Directors, and pre-approved, like a credit card. But it’s not ever yet! Now I’ve been told I need three references and a background check. I am quite sure when all this is done, I will also be given a home equity loan. These guys are tough!
It never occurred to me that this would be so hard. This is, after all, volunteering. But then I realized, how do they know I’m not a nut? These are young lives we’re talking about, and lots of these students have already felt they were in peril. They should be vetting me up and down, and I will be extremely proud if they find me fit.
And frankly? I’ve already seen the bio on my prospective Point college student. She’s from my home state, from a town much like mine. But boy oh boy, has she got it all over me. Looks like if I’m lucky enough to be approved as a mentor, I’m going to learn a few things. So stay tuned!