BY SATOMI UMEHARA
Sheila TrangChiu had many concerns in high school: problems with friends, grades, college applications, financial issues.
Luckily TrangChiu had someone she could always turn to for help and advice. Her mentor, Marisa Wang, sent a daily e-mail, called her by phone, wrote reference letters for scholarship applications, and was always there when the high school student needed a little encouragement.
“We have fun together, and I can tell her anything about school and life,” TrangChiu said. “Everything I need help with, I know I can go to her for advice.” Now a freshman at the University of Washington, she talks about her mentor in the present tense, even after their mentorship ended in June. They remain good friends.
TrangChiu and Wang are participants in StarImpact, a nonprofit organization created to help Asian American high school women excel and become future leaders in their careers. Its logo, a five-pointed star, represents the areas for mentors to develop: academics, networking, personal development, leadership skills and career aspirations.
Mentorship forms the core of the program. Based on academic and career interests, high school students in the program are matched up with mentors who are either professional women or college students. They meet twice a month for one year. StarImpact provides suggested curriculums that include topics for discussion.
Pediatrician Joyce Wu mentored Christine Fung in the 2005 fall program. They worked on different topics such as scholarships, college applications and volunteering.
“Christine had always talked about wanting to volunteer, but was a bit overwhelmed by the multiple options and steps to actually begin volunteering” Wu said. “Since she wanted to be a pediatrician, we brainstormed ideas of different places where she could volunteer. The next meeting I brought my laptop, and had her actually submit applications to both Children’s Hospital and the American Red Cross.”
Fung volunteered at both and enjoyed her experiences at the two sites.
In addition to individual meetings, there are social events and workshops throughout the year where participants can learn in a group setting, get to know each other and have fun.
One of the workshops that StarImpact organized this year was about self-marketing. Pearl Leung, StarImpact education and curriculum development advisor, discussed the tactics in “selling yourself” and knowing how to work oneself up in a world where it’s not just about hard work.
TrangChiu participated in this workshop, and what she learned later helped her during scholarship interviews.
Mentors and StarImpact staff members are all volunteers; they either have full-time jobs or are full-time students. The directors spend many evenings and weekends working for StarImpact.
Asked why she decided to become a mentor, Wu said, “I believe strongly in the impact that youth can make in society. I had many mentors growing up, and even now, who serve as role models and encouraged me to continue to follow my dreams. Especially as an Asian American, I wanted to be able to share my experience and knowledge with an Asian American youth.”
“I also find youth to be inspiring for me as well — with their energy, enthusiasm and positive attitudes. It has been a very rewarding experience.”
Wang, director of recruiting and membership and who was also a mentor said, “It was definitely a mutually beneficial relationship. Being a mentor has allowed me to make a positive impact on a young person’s life. There is such reward in helping a young person feel good about themselves, instilling confidence in their abilities and offering continuous encouragement in their lives.”
StarImpact, founded by Anita Liu in 2004, is now starting its third year. Liu said the challenge was letting high school students know that the program existed. With new recruiting managers and strategy this year, Liu expects to have 40 to 50 youth participants in the fall 2006 program.
In the future, StarImpact is also planning to expand its program to mentor high school boys.
As StarImpact evolves to better serve the Asian community, members are moving on with their lives while staying close to or actively involved in StarImpact. All those mentored who were high school seniors last year are now enrolled in colleges.
Asked if she plans to be a mentor in the future, TrangChiu said “definitely.”
“They helped me so much. It just makes sense to help others. I’m very grateful for the help I got. Mentorship can make such a big difference in someone’s life.”
Make a difference in an Asian American girl’s life! StarImpact is a non-profit organization that promotes excellence among Asian American high school women through mentorship and development of leadership skills. StarImpact is now recruiting Mentors for the 2006-2007 school year. For more information on the mission of StarImpact, visit www.starimpact.org. Applications are due Aug. 31. For more information, contact Recruitment and Membership Director Marisa Wang at [email protected]