Thursday is my favorite day of the week, but it is not because of a light class load. Every Thursday morning, I have the opportunity to visit a first grade classroom at North Side Elementary School in Johnson City.

Side view of the school with the sign. Photo via Vanessa Quinones

At the start of the semester my soccer coach, Lisa Buckley, approached my teammates and me about being part of a mentoring program at a nearby elementary school. The assistant principal of North Side Elementary, Tonya Ness, contacted Mark Fox, Milligan’s athletic director, in order to start up a mentoring program with Milligan athletics.

I am one of six athletes that chose to be a part of the mentoring program along with two Milligan coaches and Fox. I’m not going to lie; at first I was hesitant to join the program, as being a student athlete takes up a lot of time. While I was toying with the idea in my mind, I thought back to the positive experiences I’ve had on previous mission trips. On those trips, I also worked with children, and looking back I was reminded how much those experiences meant to me. After that, it was a no brainer. I was all in.

Mrs. King and Vanessa Quinones. Photo via Vanessa Quinones.

Each of us has been given one child to hang out with for an hour each week until the end of the semester. My mentee’s name is Sasha, and she is in Mrs. King’s first grade class. When I arrived at the classroom for the first time, the teacher was out for surgery, so it was a little chaotic. I had asked for Sasha, and a little girl came up to hug me, but it was not Sasha. I was a little confused, so I asked again, and then I saw a girl at a table raise her hand.

I walked over to her and sat down. I could tell she was shy from the start. It’s funny; she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt and baggy sweat pants, reminding me of myself as a first grader. We did not talk much the first day, and I was not even sure she liked me until the end when she gave me a big hug and asked if I would be back.

Student, Sasha, and Vanessa reading together. Photo via Vanessa Quinones.

Since then, I have learned a little more about Sasha as we work on her math and reading. I know she comes from a big family, although I could not tell you the exact number because we are still working on counting. I know her favorite color is gold, but she really likes all the colors. Also, like me, her favorite candy bar is a KitKat.

While I am there to work with Sasha, the other kids are also very excited to see me, so I try to do little things to make her feel special. One day, brought her a king-sized KitKat bar. I am looking forward to getting closer to Sasha and learning even more about her as the semester goes on.

I’m thankful for this experience and glad I decided to do it even though it took me a while to get there. I have realized how impactful it can be to participate in helping the community, not just on the students I work with but on my life as well.

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  1. Jerry Puciaty

    What a lovely artical. I believe Ms quinones really cares.

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