My 20 year journey through the STARS Mentoring Program

A Q & A session with FRIENDS FIRST Lead Program Coordinator, Mary Edet.

What is your fondest memory from your FRIENDS FIRST/STARS experience? I have been involved with the STARS Mentoring Program and FRIENDS FIRST since my freshman year of high school in 1998. With over 20 years of experience with this organization, I have many fond memories. The reason I joined STARS and have continued my involvement over the years is because of the relationships that I have formed. I have made some of my dearest, lifelong friends through this program! Some of my fondest memories include traveling with FRIENDS FIRST staff members Josh Sosa, Gina Harris, and Lisa Rue as a student representative to help train fellow STARS mentors in Huntsville, Alabama and attending conferences in both Claremont and Palm Springs, California. Right from the start, FRIENDS FIRST gave me the opportunity to operate in my gifts and experience some really incredible personal and professional development.

What is your fondest memory from your program facilitating experience? My favorite memories usually center around students who express their gratitude for the program during end-of-program celebrations. A few years ago, I had a mentor/mentee pair: Garrett and Matthew. I had asked them to share a little bit about how their year of mentoring impacted them, expecting to get a happy little anecdote about fun, snacks, and all the games but they surprised me when they started talking about how deeply each of them had impacted the other throughout the year. A senior in high school and a sixth grader had forged a bond that was almost too deep for words. Matthew cried a little as he expressed his gratitude for his mentor. It is moments like these that keep me afloat when it seems like nothing is going right.

How has being a mentor/having a mentor made an impact on your life? Mentoring helps us to know we are not alone in this crazy walk of life! I’ve had some really incredible mentors in my life, some have been for seasons, some for life. But all of them have helped me to discover parts of my true identity, called me out on things that needed improvement and encouraged me to be my best self. In turn, I have had some pretty wonderful mentees over the years who have allowed me to be a positive and important influence in their lives.

"I have learned that my life, in all its perfect imperfection, can be a road map to help others find their own way. I have learned that I connect best with teens when I’m being my authentic, kind, goofy self. I have learned that empathy and positivity are superpowers which I can use to best serve others.”

Why should school administrators or principals considering bringing the STARS Mentoring Program into their school? The STARS Mentoring Program can bring a sense of belonging to students who aren’t sure about their place in this world. It can bring an opportunity for growth to those who are willing to participate. It can raise up and challenge leaders to step into relationships with others in their communities. The STARS Mentoring Program brings a way for a school to create a lasting legacy in the lives of their students. There are so many students who have incredible potential to become outstanding contributors to society, but they might not have all of the tools or opportunities to learn how.

Why should someone considering giving to FRIENDS FIRST?

FRIENDS FIRST can help flip the script by training and developing teens to mentor their own peers. When teens know they have someone who believes in them, they are able to grab on to their courage and do the work required to grow! Everyone wants a place to belong. FRIENDS FIRST programs offer that to teens.

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