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Local mentors honored at seventh annual Oklahoma Mentor Day

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Oklahoma Mentor Day 2019

Participants at the Oklahoma Mentor Day gather to recognize mentors from across the state in Wes Watkins on Jan. 19, 2019.

The seventh annual Oklahoma Mentor Day, held in conjunction with National Mentor Month, took place at Oklahoma State University on Friday.

Eighty six mentors were recognized. Wes Watkins Center was filled with mentors, mentees, and supporters of mentoring programs from across the state.

David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative put on the event, working with various departments at OSU to bring in activities and stations for the attendees to enjoy.

The Boren Mentoring Initiative is a program brought together by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The initiatives mission is to help to grow and improve mentoring programs throughout the state.

Brenda Wheelock, the communications director for the foundation, has been working with this event for the past seven years and feels that this event is important to bring the significance of mentors in a community to light.

“I think this is important because it helps recognize and raise awareness for the impact that mentors have on kid’s lives, and it also helps raise awareness that we need more mentors,” Wheelock said. 

Sara Wilson, the communications specialist for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, told a story about a mentor she had while trying to find her career path. She explained how mentor day is able to bring to light the mentors that help kids in the same way all over the state.

“I think the amazing thing about Mentor Day is it lets people see that there are some amazing adults out there who are willing to make a big sacrifice to spend a lot of time and love into these relationships and it is a wonderful thing to get to celebrate that today,” Wilson said.

This event featured mentors of all ages, including college students, such as tutors working with OSU’s Lasso Center, and even high school students.

The Ike Ignition program brought 15 mentors, all of high school age, with three mentors being recognized during the event. Junior Cliffton Dailey and senior Gaby Comas are first year mentors from Eisenhower High School in Lawton. Dailey said the mentors in his life inspired him to make a difference in his community. 

“I actually had mentors when I was a freshman, so I was thinking I could do the same thing to help freshman and help to shape their futures,” Dailey said.

Comas said she had not experienced any mentoring programs. When she moved to Eisenhower and saw the school offered a program where she could mentor students in the grades below her, she was excited to get involved.

Clayton Smith is with the University of Oklahoma’s Dean Leadership Council. He and his mentee, Dustin Arellano, were one of the pairs honored at the event. Smith helped Arrellano throughout his freshman year of college, teaching him useful skills, such as stress and time management, and preparing for a career fair.

Smith, like Comas, did not experience mentoring in his childhood. When he got to college, a few of his professors mentored him, which made him want to give back and get involved as a mentor himself.

“The most rewarding part for me has been seeing the results of putting in a lot of time and effort and passion into somebody’s life and seeing it change their perspective, but also you learn just as much from them that they learn from you,” Smith said.

Kayse M. Shrum, president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, was the event's keynote speaker. Shrum spoke on her own experiences with her mentors that changed the entire trajectory of her life.

“I have had a lot of mentors in my past, and I feel that I am where I am today because of mentors,” Shrum said. “One, in particular, was one of my professors who asked if I was going to medical school, and prior to that I had never even considered it, and he suggested I visit a medical school and that I go talk to my family doctor. Prior to that moment, I never even thought that I could be a doctor, so that one conversation completely changed my life.”

Shrum said the recognized mentors showed the characteristics that mentors should have, from being compassionate, optimistic and recognizing the potential in people that maybe they don’t even see themselves.

Many members of the committee who worked to put on this event remarked how helpful OSU had been in the planning and execution of this event and wished to thank all faculty, staff, students and departments who took part in making the Oklahoma Mentor Day happen.

“OSU has gone all out, this is the most activities we have ever had and it is because all of these departments have really stepped up to welcome these mentors,” Wheelock said.