August 1, 2011

On Mentoring

As mentioned in my post written about a month ago, I was to transition from mentee to mentor at my summer internship. I have never assumed this role before and was extremely nervous the first day, July 5, 2011.
I was to mentor 4 high school students: one was my mentor's daughter and the other three were from Long Island, NY sponsored by their respective Breast Cancer organizations. I had their schedule for the month, the BCRL's lab manual, seating charts/assignments, and their summer objectives and tasks all prepared from them in cute little folders. I was ready to start my mentoring, or so I thought. I was nervous from the time I parked in the garage that day, walked through the hospital to the lab, and to my seating area. A few setbacks changed the schedule around and I met with the students 2 hours prior to our scheduled meeting time. Anyhoo, we made it through the first day and every day became easier after that. (Especially on day two when one of the mentees told me that I should not have been nervous on the first day because I did very well).
July was a great learning period for all of us. Their young minds (15 and 16 year olds) gained so much knowledge within the first day and just about every day for the remainder of the month. They asked questions whenever they were curious, and they were overall great kids.

They each also had their own unique personalities, which brought some spunk and energy to our lab. Whether they were cracking jokes, wheeling through the length of the lab in their chairs (which really wasn't allowed), or giving us researchers a hand in some of our experiments, they were all welcomed with open arms. Yes, even the "annoying kid". (You know there's always ONE).
One of our most memorable quotes was while we were teaching the students how to dissect the rat mammary gland. I mentioned that sometimes, it is really hard to see the mammary gland on a skin pelt and to get a better idea of the location, they should try to locate the nipple on the outer skin and match it to the inner region. One of my mentees (we'll call him H) was recording their experience during this time (to create a documentary), when of the other mentees (we'll call him Y) asked me to show them the nipple. H got all embarrassed and asked that Y not say the word "nipple" while he's recording because it was not "professional". As clever as Y is, he responded:
"Okay.... Jhan, can you show me the beep?"

The lab erupted in laughter!

It seems as if I have gotten a little sidetracked in story telling, so I guess I will wrap this one up. Overall, it was such a great experience. I always admire young people who hunger and seek after knowledge. They remind me of myself at that age and makes me wish I had been involved in something so wonderful.

Friday (July 29th) was their last day. They prepared a 30 minute presentation of their research results and all their parents and friends came to see. I'll surely miss them. They were not only a joy to have in the lab, but they taught me that I can be released from my shell of shyness to be of help to others, and to impart on them the knowledge that I have received from those who were generous enough accept me into their lab and impart their knowledge to me.

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