Here in Ashton, Idaho our high school seniors are required to do a senior project to graduate. This project is an internship where they learn a new skill under the watchful eyes of a mentor. They also have to apply what they learn through volunteering hours to community service in a related area. The mentor lays out a curriculum and guides the student through the lessons much as their other teachers at school but also giving them hands on experience. At the end of the internship/mentoring process the student must then write an essay on a related topic of their choice and present it to a panel of judges along with a presentation of their project showing what they learned and where they struggled etc... Their mentor sits on the panel of judges as well and watches with pride as his/her intern shows off the knowledge they have gained.
This year I was asked by two of our graduating teens to be their mentor in differing subjects. The first was a young man wishing to learn how to cook. He confessed during his presentation that he chose the project because he thought at first it would be easy. Regrettably I had to disillusion the lad on that point. I not only taught him how to cook but a few things about nutrition and the importance of food safety. Once he recovered from his shock that cooking actually involves working he quickly took to the accolades heaped upon him by his friends and family for the dishes he cooked himself. All in all I would say we pulled off a success.
The second intern was a young 17 year old girl who aspires to be a writer. Over the course of the summer she wrote an entire novel. To my fellow authors I say look out for this young woman. She did the research, wrote the manuscript, edited it and had it proof ready in just 3 months. As I read her manuscript I had to keep reminding myself that she was only 17 and writing on a maturity level that was amazing to say the least. Setting her story during the war for independence, she took on the conflicts of a young girl caught between the lines of the colonists and the British. Adding to the complexity of the story her heroine is caught between love for her young colonial suitor and the handsome young British officer her family is forced to garrison in their home.
As I sat through the presentations of these two young people I have to say I felt a renewed sense of pride and wonder. I learned nearly as much as I taught, and that is a marvelous thing. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to mentor a young person to do so. You just might learn something.