alumni and mpa senior talking at the alumni mentor network programby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

My earliest recollection of my career aspirations is from when I was four or five. I remember having it narrowed down to two possibilities: gas station attendant and trash collector. I hope enough of you are old enough to remember when there were attendants who pumped gas, washed windshields, and checked the oil. For most of us, our thoughts about a career in our early years come from our role models, those we looked up to and wanted to emulate. My aspirations changed as I did and teaching became my desired career path.

Mentors and role models play a crucial part of our academic, ethical, and professional development. Their influence cannot be taken for granted as they help shape our values, actions, and behaviors. In the professional world, mentors and role models can influence our career paths as well as provide practical advice and insight into the workplace. They can also help to form and strengthen valuable connections that often lead to future employment. As it is said, “it isn’t what you know, but who you know.”

This Tuesday, I had the pleasure of observing our seniors interact with their MPA alumni mentors who they met for the first time in person. The Family Commons was abuzz with excitement, enthusiasm, and energy as mentors and mentees met in person for the first time. “I really enjoyed emailing with my mentor,” said Mari Bohacek. “She gave lots of helpful advice and we share a lot in common. It’s so cool to think that MPA is where we both went to high school. Upon meeting her in person, it was so nice to talk to her, already knowing so much about her. We related to each other even more and she had great advice and stories to tell me that made us connect. We even plan to keep emailing about important updates.”

This event was the culmination of a mentorship program created by our Alumni Board, under the leadership of Mike Velin ’06. The Alumni Board worked closely with Ashley Goetzke, assistant development director, and Randy Comfort, director of guidance, to build upon past efforts and create a program based loosely on a 3M mentorship model. The MPA Mentorship Program has now entered into its second year with MPA Alumni being paired with a member of the senior class.

This year was wildly successful with more alumni interested in the program than we had seniors. Mentees and mentors were matched based on interests, hobbies, career goals, college choice, etc. Over the span of several months, students corresponded through email with their mentors on a series of topics, including how interests at MPA translated to both college and career choices, goal setting, conflict resolution, overcoming failure, and how to present oneself professionally.

The relationships formed and developed has benefited both alumni and seniors. “My experience with the MPA Mentorship Program has been one of my favorite things about senior year,” said one senior. “I felt connected to my mentor right from the beginning. We had so many things in common and bonded over our love for studying English, being in track and field, and HGTV. I was so excited to finally meet her in person! The chance to connect with an alumnus with similar interests to me was very special and I am very grateful that I have gotten to know, and can call her my friend!”

A number of alumni who participated in the program were not able to attend the in-person meeting because they are living around the world. However, the connection was nonetheless powerful. “I learned so much from my mentee and enjoy hearing about his life and ambitions. It’s so comforting to know that the students at MPA are as impressive and audacious as ever and makes me proud to be associated with your organization.” Based on initial feedback, it appears that many of the relationships will continue well into the future.

At MPA, we often celebrate the incredible sense of community we enjoy and the relationships that are formed across grade levels and divisions. In so many ways, the size of our school is an advantage and certainly benefits the mentorship program. The sense of community is instilled with them and extends post-graduation. As a result, our alumni community are very engaged and are exceedingly willing to give back to the school and to make a difference in the lives of current students.

Our seniors are filled with optimism as they face the future. As with many of us, their career aspirations will develop and change. Having the support of a larger community will certainly empower them to successfully navigate the challenges that lie ahead. What our seniors have learned during the mentorship program thus far and what might come as their relationships with their mentors develop over time, is invaluable.

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