In honor of National Mentor Month, we interviewed Masha Azimova, a Richmond mentor at the Boushall Achievement Center.
How long have you been a Higher Achievement mentor?
Masha: I have been mentoring with Higher Achievement for four years. The Higher Achievement mission really resonated with me, and I believe that the middle school years really are a pivotal time to provide students with experiences and support to open their minds. I am originally from Uzbekistan, and I grew up during the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was an economically tough time and travel was constrained and difficult. By a stroke of luck, a few opportunities, and the support of mentors and teachers, I was able to come to the U.S. to go to college and graduate school. A lot of people my age didn’t get that chance, so I understand it really matters to have mentors and be presented with opportunities.
What is your favorite part about being a mentor?
Masha: There are so many to choose from! Seeing the scholars graduate during Green Apples, seeing them perform and conquer their fears at Love Out Loud – all of these are achievements not just for the scholars, but for the organization as a whole. I am currently mentoring 8th graders on high school placement. Sometimes when we are going through the curriculum, I’m not sure if they understand. Then we go through their homework and at the end of the semester they bring me their report cards and it shows me they are learning, they are benefiting from this.
What challenges do our scholars face and how does the mentor program address these?
Masha: There are many ways in which Higher Achievement mentors help; academic, structure and possibilities, adult support, and just knowing that their mentors are showing up every week and that they really do care for them.
Describe the relationships you have with your scholars.
Masha: We have a very friendly relationship, it’s definitely an adult/kid relationship. We talk about world events, what is going on in their life, what’s on their mind, and how what is happening in the world might affect them. It’s amazing the maturity they have! I am open and honest with them, and we talk about choices and behavior. As much as I think I am making a difference in their lives, they are teaching me, they are changing my outlook.
If you could challenge the community to support Higher Achievement scholars, what would you ask?
Masha: They should come get to know the scholars! There are over 50 mentor spots we need filled. Even just volunteering one hour of your time – this is an opportunity that can change a life and expand your perspectives as well.
There are many ways you can help our scholars realize their potential! Become a mentor today!