Giving back through mentoring

By Gabriel Santner

A mentoring program at a Massachusetts college is a win-win for mentors and mentees.

Quinsigamond Community College’s (QCC’s) mentoring program is in its second year and is starting to gain traction in the Central Massachusetts community.

The program connects QCC students with staff, faculty, industry and community members to create one-on-one mentoring relationships. It builds positive relationships and supports students by helping them to develop employer-desired skills, gain an understanding of workplace expectations and networking, to increase their likelihood of finding a rewarding career. The results are often life-changing.

All participants in the mentoring program are expected to meet once per month at one of QCC’s locations. Each month, the QCC mentoring team sends out “Area of Focus” activities, which can help guide the monthly sessions, and provide some context for conversations.

More than 20 different organizations throughout Worcester and Central Mass help make the program successful. Among the organizations is a core group of five community partners: AbbVie Biopharmaceuticals, The City of Worcester, University of Massachusetts Memorial Healthcare, Hanover Insurance and Love Your Labels. These core community partners commit to having 10 mentors from their organization participate in QCC’s mentoring program.

Dr. Natalie Anumba, a forensic psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was the first community partner to become part of the college’s mentoring program last year. Her mentor-mentee relationship is one that truly sets the standard for the program. Anumba’s mentee, Zuheyry Encarnacion, started taking classes at QCC last year and was encouraged by her Massachusetts Education and Career Opportunities (EDCO) advocate to get into the college’s mentoring program. Encarnacion took the advice of her advocate and was matched with Anumba, who has given her the support and encouragement that was lacking in her life.

“I didn’t want to be in the mentoring program at first, but I’m so glad I did. Natalie helps me with my major and helps me with resources in my career. She got to know me. She’s my motivator even if I’m having a bad day,” Encarnacion said.

Anumba learned about QCC’s Mentoring Program after attending a Worcester Chamber of Commerce event where she heard QCC President Luis Pedraja speak about the value of mentorship. She said one of the points he made, which resonated with her, was that employers need to pay attention to the local workforce because there’s a wealth of potential right in Central Massachusetts. Anumba went up to Pedraja after the program and asked how she could help.

“There is a demand for mentors and mentoring is so important. I look back at my career and the people who contributed to it and the mentors along the way,” she said. “I personally feel like I’m contributing to something special that’s in-line with my skills.”

Encarnacion, who is set to graduate in December 2019, has a close relationship with her mentor.

“When you meet someone in your chosen career you see what you’re going to go into and you gain another support,” she said. “Having someone in your corner no matter what, is amazing. Not a lot of people can say they have emotional and academic support.”

Encarnacion plans to transfer to Worcester State University after graduating from QCC. Her dream is to one day be a detective and said she will keep pushing to meet that goal for her three-year-old daughter, who is her inspiration and driving force.

While this may be the end of her academic year at QCC, Encarnacion and Anumba plan to continue their mentoring relationship.

“What you put into this program is what you get out of it and I’ve gotten a lot,” Encarnacion said.

Gabriel Santner

is director of mentoring for Perkins programs at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts.