The lull of summer boredom confined me to my room as the nerves of my upcoming sophomore year occupied my thoughts. As the COVID restrictions lessened going into the 2021 school year, I could no longer justify my procrastination and lack of motivation; I would be starting the school year in person without the grace period of trying out new things that freshman year offered. There were so many clubs and extracurriculars that I wanted to explore, but I lacked experience in many, and as a shy student, fear of failure and putting myself out there held me back from even trying. One club that I had always been interested in was MUN; as a student passionate about history, global relations, and research, it felt like the perfect intersection for all of my interests. However, my inadequate knowledge of politics and the rules of debate made me anxious to join a club I knew would be filled with outgoing and confident student members. When I expressed this to my sister, who was a Curious Cardinals mentor herself, she recommended that I find a mentor from Curious Cardinals, a program I had completed an online Cosmetic Chemistry class with that past spring. I was intrigued. But I assumed that this would look like finding a tutor who specializes in MUN and I wasn't sure if that's what I really wanted. However, after reading the profiles of these mentors and going through the detailed matching process, those assumptions were quickly dispelled. When looking at the mentor profiles recommended for me, I was shocked at how perfect they appeared as mentor matches for me. They shared qualities and passions with me. They were impressively well-rounded, accomplished, and not too much older in age than me. One of the women, Lydia, was described as someone who loved ancient history, classics, and languages and was studying at Harvard. Lydia sounded less like a tutor and more like an inspiration for whom I would want to be in 10 years.
Photo: Avery and her mom meeting the Curious Cardinals Co-Founders at a community event in Seattle.
From our very first Zoom meeting, Lydia instantly dispelled any of my nervousness. I have had numerous tutors, and that teacher-student dynamic often creates an atmosphere of anxiety and pressure. However, Lydia was incredibly charismatic and welcoming and I marveled at how similar we were. We worked on preparing for the Model UN club, and with the tools she had taught me about writing and public speaking, I already felt much more prepared and confident going into the club's first meeting. During Lydia and my second meeting, she offered assistance in any of my other humanities classes. I then realized how her knowledge and experience could help me grow beyond MUN and academics, but holistically as a learner. Because Lydia and I connected so well on a passion-based level and personality-wise, our meetings quickly expanded to incorporate other things I wanted to work on. We spent the year reviewing essays, exploring extracurricular activities based on my passions, and discussing my future. Having a mentor who shared my interests fueled my curiosity and drive for my passions, as I knew I had someone to offer me guidance and advice.
During the remainder of my sophomore year, Lydia and I met every weekend. Although I realized Model UN wasn't for me, throughout my sophomore year, the experience ignited a passion for writing within me. With Lydia's help, I applied for a study abroad program for my Junior Fall, founded a literature club, and felt I was fulfilling/living up to my best potential. I started my sophomore year with budding interests but no real self-direction and a lack of motivation to explore subjects outside my school's curriculum. However, as I look back on that year, I am amazed and proud of what I accomplished. During the summer, Lydia and I worked diligently to prepare for my study abroad, map out my Junior year, and improve my writing skills. Even while studying abroad in Switzerland, Lydia and I kept in touch and delved into the passions and projects I wanted to pursue that year.
We still meet weekly in the spring semester of my Junior year. Lydia has helped me throughout the beginning of my high school career and now as I round the final stretch. I like to consider her my secret weapon, as, without her, I most likely would have accomplished nearly all of the fantastic things I have done with her help. With constant change I face as a high schooler, Lydia has remained a core constant for me.However, it is equally comforting to know that she has helped implement the creative and curious mindset I use without her there too.
Video: Avery and her mentor, Lydia (Harvard '20), reflect on their mentorship journey together.
That freshman summer and my first meeting with Lydia was a real turning point in my life, as it was the basis of a path of passion-based learning that has given me excitement and inspiration for my future. Straying outside the typical academic curriculum to pursue my interests has given me immense confidence, independence, and satisfaction. The inspiration and bond from my mentor allowed me to grow as a student and person. I value my mentorship with Lydia immensely and heavily recommend Curious Cardinals to any student who wishes to cultivate a passion, strengthen their curiosity, or learn more about themselves and their interests. The purpose of a mentor is to allow a mentee to visualize themselves in the future and use their mentor’s experience and advice to help guide them throughout that journey. With a mentor from Curious Cardinal, you are able to focus directly on the student and their passions, most likely creating a more personal and focused relationship than teachers can offer. Through the past two years of developing and focusing on my interests during my mentorship with Lydia and my involvement with Curious Cardinals, I have grown vastly as a student and a person.