Why I Became a College Re-Entry Mentor

Posted on November 26, 2014

Fountain House College Re-Entry is the only private program of its kind to help young adults who have suspended their education due to a mental health crisis return to college. If you experienced a mental health challenge in college, you already know how difficult it can be. Students often feel alone and ashamed about falling behind their classmates, scared that they will not achieve their goals.

A student, staff member and special friend taking a study break

A student, staff member and special friend taking a study break

You can make a huge difference in the life of a student. Fountain House College Re-Entry is looking for mentors for 2015 who are willing to share their experience and become a friend to one of our students. Being a mentor can be very rewarding.  It allows you to draw on your experience, share what you have learned, and turn what might have been a great challenge in your life into something positive. 

One of our mentors, Ilyse Wilpon Buaron, explains why she became a mentor. You can apply to be a mentor for the next class on the College Re-Entry website.

Working as a mentor with a young woman who is enduring much of what I have experienced, and continue to experience, is an enormously rewarding, but challenging mandate. What I have seen firsthand with my mentee and with close observation of the Fountain House College Re-Entry approach is something applicable to anyone who has an objective which has been unattainable.

My mentee would desperately like to complete her college education and measures her self-worth against that failed objective. However, I have watched her confidence build by her biting off much smaller goals within the Fountain House College Re-Entry curriculum, and seeing that many little pictures can make for a big picture, rather than remain paralyzed from the anxiety of the big picture and all that it entails. She demonstrates more confidence each week and I believe sees the merit of climbing the little hills in front of the bigger mountain.

Among the things about which she was uneasy is public speaking. As part of the Fountain House College Re-Entry program, she recently had to give an oral presentation and lead a Q&A session with her classmates.

I observed her body language when I raised the subject of her preparing for the “big day.” I felt terribly empathetic when I sensed her fear, but she gave the presentation because it was mandatory. When we discussed it afterwards I saw a new confidence emerge from her shy, uncertain demeanor. She became highly animated and comfortable and spoke with enthusiasm and eloquence on her subject.

While she admits that she will never like public speaking, she understands that completing college will present many things she will not like and she has to work through the discomfort. I believe in the mantra that getting through discomfort builds self-esteem. My commitment as a mentor continues to reinforce this belief.