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The Power of Mentorships in Postsecondary Support

By OneGoal
February 13, 2023

The following is an excerpt from a OneGoal Webinar titled ‘Mentorship to Support Postsecondary Success’ about how building relationships is a key part of closing the degree divide between students from low- and high-income communities. Moderator Adam Seidel, Managing Director of Program for OneGoal Massachusetts, sat down with former OneGoal Program Director and current Director of Program Morgan Taylor, along with OneGoal alum Lunessa Charles, for an in-depth look at a real-life mentor/mentee relationship.

Adam Seidel: I’d love to do is just start with you, Morgan. Tell us a little bit about how you got started with OneGoal, and what drove you to continue the work that you’re doing now.

Morgan Taylor: OneGoal has been part of my story since 2018. It all started when my principal told me about the program, and I met staff from the OneGoal team. They came into the class observation, and we talked about what OneGoal programming would look like. I have had three cohorts since then as a Program Director before joining the staff last summer, and Lunessa was in my first cohort. And now, I have a unique role where I’m able to provide insight and use all the skills that I developed in the classroom to give insights into Program Director and Fellow experience because I still interact with many alumni like Lunessa. We apply those insights to our decisions on the program side now that I’m on staff.

Adam: Lunessa, can you tell us a little bit about why you joined OneGoal and what it meant for you?

Lunessa Charles: I transferred mid-year of my junior year. And it was life-changing as in the diversity being introduced to a different world as in education and socially. I heard about OneGoal, but the school told me, ‘oh, you don’t need OneGoal You’re fine.’ I had friends, though, who knew Miss Taylor, who was planning an HBCU trip, which was when I met her. And the rest is history! My family knows and loves her. I love OneGoal. I’ve been connected to OneGoal for so long, and I would not change my experience for anything. OneGoal is amazing. Between Mr. Seidel and Miss Taylor, I couldn’t ask for a better mentoring team.

OneGoal alum Lunessa Charles (L) with her OneGoal Program Director and current OneGoal Massachusetts staffer Morgan Taylor (R).

Adam Seidel: I appreciate that! So, your journey and your path have shifted a little bit. Can you share how your mentorship and your relationship with Miss Taylor (or Morgan) helped you navigate some of the choices you had to make?

Lunessa Charles: My first choice was to go to Clark Atlanta, the HBCU. But the pandemic changed everything. As a Type 1 Diabetic, my mom sat me down and explained how Atlanta was a [COVID] hotspot, so what if something happens to you? I went back and forth with Ms. Taylor, and my mom, and they were like, you have to think about your health. So that’s why I ended up going to UMass Dartmouth. I later looked at transferring to Clark Atlanta since it was my first pick, but there was a problem with credits transferring, so I had to make the decision to finish at UMass Dartmouth, despite my really wanting to go to Clark Atlanta. It’s been a good decision. Staying at UMass, I’ve become more involved and found a family with the help of Miss Taylor. She told me, ‘you are amazing! You are a social person, and this experience will be what you make it.’ And since then, everywhere I go, it’s “Lunessa’s in the room!”

Adam Seidel: There can only be one Lunessa in the room! I appreciate that. Sometimes you need that extra push, right? I’m curious, Morgan, from your perspective, being on the other end of these ups and downs and choices that Lunessa had to make, What did it mean to show up for Lunessa through each of those stages?

Morgan Taylor: Part of mentoring Lunessa is like being a second mom. She even calls me Mama Tae Tae. For me, it’s just being present. Actively listening to what she wants to do. She wanted to be in Atlanta and has been the one to introduce her to that possibility, I understood why she wanted to go. Talking to her mom and understanding her fears, knowing firsthand what it’s like for Lunessa to manage blood sugar as a diabetic. Being mindful of those things allows me to be a strong thought partner for her while being grounded in the fact that these aren’t my decisions to make.

Lunessa Charles: College is a very tedious process. If you don’t have that support system, it’s really hard. And they were my real support system because I talked to my friends, but in actuality, you need a support system who’s been through it, and they’ve been through it, which helped me a lot because I was able to get my thought process together and not stress as much. I panic, and when I panic, I’m all over the place, and then they were able to be like, ‘Okay, relax, I got you.’

Morgan Taylor: I want to jump in and just say that building relationships with families was important in the beginning. I started with an introduction phone call to answer questions like what is OneGoal? What is my role with your child? and how are we going to work as a team for your child? So, Lunessa’s mom was always very adamant about being there for her. We would go for lunch at Panera to talk about grades, and it starts to feel like this is family.

Adam Seidel: I’m curious because one of the things that’s unique about OneGoal is you get to see the teacher every day while you’re in high school. And then, you graduate and have to find out different ways to communicate and connect. What has worked for you and Morgan?

Lunessa Charles: When school ended in March, it was like, wow, but that didn’t end our connection because we would FaceTime, I’d text her what was going on, and she would remind me of things I needed to do. I would like go off-topic really fast and go far from what I originally asked about! But that really helped us to grow our connection and keep me focused.

Morgan Taylor: OneGoal has a process. There’s a cadence for check-ins, there are resources to send out, and guidance to offer. I utilize Google Calendar for birthday reminders to send birthday text messages to Fellows. I make sure to send Fellows messages during holidays. And then just be available when they need me to be.

Adam Seidel: Morgan, I’d love to know if you have any other texting tips for staying in touch with mentees.

Morgan Taylor: You have to be mindful of how many text messages students are receiving. We check in about progress in certain areas, but if their grades are suffering or they aren’t feeling confident about their academics, they aren’t going to respond. I get the greatest response from wellness checks. Asking how they are doing personally. So I try to start there before weaving in all of the other deliverables.

Adam Seidel: What advice would you give to adults who are mentoring students through their postsecondary plan and process?

Lunessa Charles: Make sure to build that relationship with your mentee. It really meant a lot to me that I could actually open up. Nowadays, students don’t really know who they can trust, or they’re scared. They have a lot of things going on in life, so they’re afraid to come out and say what’s happening. So that relationship is a strong foundation, and they’ll be able to come to you, and you’ll probably be changing their life!

Adam Seidel: What were some of the most meaningful points in your college planning where Morgan provided support?

Lunessa Charles: College essays are the first thing that comes to mind. I wanted it to be about my journey after finding out I have diabetes. I just turned 16 when everything just completely… I felt like the world was ending. So I wanted to depict how I felt at that moment and put that in writing. When I showed Ms. Taylor, she said, ‘this is amazing!’ She really encouraged me and help shape what I wanted to say, so that was a core moment when I realized I could come to her for literally anything

Adam Seidel: Lunessa, we’d love to hear a little bit about your future plans. I know you have one more year left of school or a year and a half. Wo, what is your next step?

Lunessa Charles: Class of 2024! As for my next step, school doesn’t stop from there. I’ll be going directly into entry programs to get my Doctor of Nurse Practice degree, concentrated in obstetrics.

Adam Seidel: That’s amazing. And it sounds like in the future, there will be another round of applications and a lot more school. So, mentoring and support will still be crucial.

Lunessa Charles: Yes, exactly! And I love that Ms. Taylor is just a phone call away.

Watch the full webinar, or check out our resources for educators interested in learning more about how to support students’ postsecondary success. And be sure to browse the OneGoal Massachusetts page to see the impact OneGoal is having in the region.

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