How I helped a shy student feel connected.

I was that shy kid in middle school. Now I am a near-peer mentor who can help others feel connected that are just a few years younger than me.

I remember coming into school as the shy girl who did her work but sat in the back of the class and just did as she was supposed to. During the pandemic when our classes were virtual, I was the student with their camera and microphone off, not speaking and not participating.

I am now a Freshman in college and I enjoy helping others. As a near-peer mentor at Teen Innovators, I remember a young teen during one of our clubs who reminded me of myself. She entered the zoom session with her camera and mic off. I knew I wanted to change how the young girl viewed the zoom meeting. I did not want this to feel like a class but rather a conversation. I wanted to make it feel like a safe space for her to be heard and her ideas validated.

Slowly as the zoom meeting progressed, I learned that if I shared about my week first, the young student then started to share about herself. I started asking questions to the young teen such as their name, their grade level. At first, my mentee only responded via the chat box. But as the meeting progressed the young teen slowly unmuted the mic to talk. I was excited that I had slowly gained the confidence I needed to continue. By the end of the meeting the young teen was fully off mute and talking as if it were a normal conversation.

The young teen was going through school refusal. After one session with Teen Innovators, she gained the confidence to get back to school.

One conversation at Teen Innovators can change the game. I believe there is power when middle school students connect with an older brother or sister relationship through our program. I enjoy being helpful. I am a Teen Innovator Mentor.

-Stephany F. is a freshman in college who enjoys reading and entrepreneurship.