June 20, 2016

What my mentor means to me

Here at the Tiger Woods Foundation, we believe in the intrinsic value of the mentor/mentee relationship. One of the key components of the Earl Woods Scholarship Program is to pair recipients with dedicated mentors who will see them through their four years of college, if not longer. For many first-generation college students or students of immigrants, mentors serve as crucial guideposts, helping scholars navigate through the new and often overwhelming world of college and career. Today we hear from Earl Woods Scholar alum Stephanie Navarrete as she writes about her personal and professional relationship with her mentor, now retired Ernst & Young partner Deborah Nolan.  

I was paired with my mentor, Deborah Nolan, during my freshman summer of college. I was very hesitant initially, because I had no clue what to expect and if we were going to have anything in common. Prior to meeting her, I learned that she worked for a major financial company, and there I was struggling with biology and exercise science courses. I was nervous that we would not be a good fit because our fields seemed like night and day. 

As time wore on though, I realized that we had a lot in common, and even though we were passionate about different things, Debbie always was able to find a way to connect with me. During one of the Earl Woods Scholar Winter Workshops, she really amazed me by taking me to see USC’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program with her husband. I had never been to a physical therapy program at that point in my life, even though I was certain that physical therapy was the field into which I wanted to get. Debbie arranged a cadaver lab tour for us and truly solidified my interest in physical therapy. Her complete investment in my dream career really motivated me while I was away at school by simply reminding me how hard she was working to make things happen for me. 

Knowing that Debbie cared about me as a person and was passionate about my pursuit in physical therapy pushes me until this day. I graduated two years ago, and even though things have not gone as planned, I will be applying to graduate school for a doctorate in physical therapy this fall. I can truly say that my small interest in the science field and physical therapy was there before Debbie, but she did little things to help solidify my confidence within those fields. 

I will forever be indebted to Debbie for simply being there as a mentor. As different as we were, she knew exactly how to speak to me and get me through four hard years at Syracuse University. 

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.