By Kelsey Bungenstock
Marketing & Communications Intern
A relationship between a mentor and a mentee can be life-changing for a student. A mentor can help their mentees avoid making mistakes they made, guide them through the tough choices they will have to make during their academic career, or simply give them an outlet with whom to discuss their worries.
The primary role of a mentor is to teach, but it’s just as important for the mentor to learn, too.
Founded in the spring of 2008 as a part of NKU Latino Programs and Services, the Latino Mentor Program (LAMP) provides Latino students with a support system from their fellow students, faculty and staff. LAMP encourages and supports students in their academic careers, as well as their social and cultural development.
As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, the Latino Mentor Program at NKU is thriving – something mentor Brooklyn Butler and her two mentees, Glenda Guerrero and Valerie Smith, know a lot about.
Brooklyn is entering her fourth year as a Political Science major at NKU. She has traveled to Mexico and Belize, and has a minor in International Studies, but does not have Latin or Hispanic roots. That has not stopped her from developing an appreciation of the culture, which ultimately led to her decision to act as a mentor.
“Being African-American, you have your own sort of group you hang out with,” Brooklyn said. “I wanted to break away from that a bit and form relationships with people I wouldn’t have met if I had just stayed in my comfort zone.”
Brooklyn had connections with Latino Programs and Services through her work with the Office of Inclusive Excellence. Diane Maldonado, coordinator of Latino Programs and Services, personally encouraged her to act as a mentor through LAMP. At first, Brooklyn had her doubts.
“I was really hesitant, because I’m not Hispanic or Latin American,” Brooklyn said. “But being a mentor is about being culturally involved, and anyone can act as a mentor if they put forth the effort to learn about their mentee’s heritage.”
When she met her mentees for the first time, she knew the effort was going to be worth it.
Valerie Smith is a freshman social work major from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Glenda Guerrero is an undeclared freshman from Los Angeles, but has Argentinian roots.
“My first semester at NKU, I spent most of my time at the library, but I wanted to be more social,” said Glenda. “Social skills are vital for success in any career, and the mentor program has rea As a mentor, Brooklyn keeps in contact with Valerie and Glenda through text messaging or in-person meetings, answers their questions about the campus and simply acts as a friend.
“I found out about the program through the NKU website,” Valerie said. “I wanted someone who would help me learn about NKU and answer my questions, no matter how stupid they are.”
Another one of Brooklyn’s responsibilities as a mentor is assuring Valerie that her questions are ‘definitely not stupid’.
Brooklyn is loud and outgoing, while Glenda is shy and reserved. Valerie doesn’t care what people think about her, and Brooklyn does. Though Brooklyn, 22, acts as a source of guidance for her mentees, she is actually younger than Valerie, who is 30, and Glenda, who is 26. Despite their differences, they found some common ground in their relationships.
In a way, the things that made them different from each other brought Brooklyn and her mentees closer.
“African American culture and Hispanic American culture are the minorities in America, and on campus, and knowing the struggles from your side, it makes you want to learn more about the issues other minority groups may be facing,” Brooklyn said.
All three women were actively involved in events for NKU’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, such as the kick-off reception, the Latino music fest, and the keynote lecture from Cuban blogger and journalist, Elaine Diaz Rodriguez
“Having events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on campus gives students of all backgrounds a chance to learn about a culture they might not have much exposure to,” said Brooklyn. “As for Hispanic and Latin American students, it gives them an opportunity to celebrate their culture and ite others to learn their customs and traditions.”
Glenda and Valerie also participated in National Hispanic Heritage Month events outside of NKU, such as a Hispanic He
“My heritage keeps me connected to my roots,” Glenda said. “Connecting with people on campus that have those same roots helps me understand who I am.”
Glenda and Valerie both have conflicting schedules, so they have yet to meet one another in person. Brooklyn’s goal is for all three of them to get together at least once this semester.
“It’s been such an amazing experience, getting to know them and both of their backgrounds,” Brooklyn said. “I’d really encourage anyone who’s interested in becoming a mentor to just do it, no matter what your race is. If you have a genuine interest in their background, a mentor can learn just as much from their mentee as their mentee can learn from them.”
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a period to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group's heritage and culture.
In its origins, the month started out as just a week, first proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. In 1988, it was then expanded by legislation sponsored by Representative Esteban E. Torres and implemented by President Ronald Reagan to cover a 30-day period.
Sept.15 was chosen as the starting point for the month’s celebration due to the date’s correlation with the anniversary of independence in five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821.