Viviana felt a little unsure as she sat down for Impact’s new mentor training back in September. This was her first time stepping into an official role as a leader with Solidarity. She was questioning if this would be the right fit for her and if she would be able to be the type of mentor her mentee needed.
Viviana grew up in the Garnet neighborhood. Her childhood and adolescent years were influenced and shaped by this vibrant community that was so full of life . The busy streets full of kids playing together outside. The birthday parties on the weekends. The amazing, and incredibly loud, fireworks on New Year's Eve. It was this tight-knit community that contributed to the many unforgettable and amazing experiences growing up in the Garnet Community.
Along with the great things the community had to offer, Viviana also experienced the not-so-great things. Growing up in a neighborhood heavily influenced by the gangs, violence, and drugs, she was quickly forced to learn how to navigate through the chaos, and through the noise. Throughout her adolescent years, she struggled with her own identity and finding a healthy sense of belonging. She often felt like she didn’t fit in. She struggled to find her place amidst the noise of the neighborhood and, because of this, she often felt incredibly alone.
Viviana was one of the first children to walk through the doors of Solidarity's after-school program. She was part of the first group of teens to be a part of the Solidarity Teen Center. Over the years, she allowed the Solidarity staff the incredible privilege of walking with her through the ups and downs of navigating the noise of the neighborhood. Amidst the challenges she faced, Viviana was able to push through the hard parts of growing up in the neighborhood and came out on the other side healthy, resilient, and full of life.
When Viviana sat down with Cierra for their first Impact mentoring meeting, the first thing she noticed was Cierra's colorful hair and her spunky personality. There was something very familiar to Viviana in the way Cierra carried herself. As the two continued to meet, the familiarity became more and more evident in their stories. Over the course of the session, Cierra allowed Viviana the privilege of walking with her through the ups and downs of life. On multiple occasions, Viviana, was able to tell Cierra, “You are not alone”. Four seemingly simple words by themselves, but when placed into the context of this relationship, they are incredibly powerful.
Viviana was unsure about her lack of experience as a mentor and if she would be able to be the type of mentor her mentee needed. As it turns out, Viviana didn’t need to be a problem-solver, a fixer, or a professional mentor at all. All she really needed was a listening ear and four simple words.
Viviana and Cierra are treasures that are rising above the noise. They are the strength of our neighborhoods and city.