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What if Santa Fe had mentorships for all students?

My View by Olin Dodson


Recently I enjoyed a sit-down at Java Joe’s with two creative educators, Tony Gerlicz and Todd Lopez. Tony founded the Monte del Sol Charter School and later, the Mandela International Magnet School. Todd is executive director of SEED, a nonprofit that administers mentorships for youth through Inspire Santa Fe.


Over the years, both have developed hundreds of mentorships in which a young person studies a subject of his or her choosing for an entire school year. By partnering a student with an adult, mentorships become immersions in creativity and understanding. The end result may be a performance, a product or a research paper. Civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson could have been talking about mentorships when he wrote: “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance. You have to get close.”


Last fall, Tony recruited me to assist a 16-year-old Mandela student who requested a mentor in creative writing. Tony knew I was a published author and a volunteer tutor at Mandela. The young woman and I met twice a week for 30 minutes, beginning in October. She brought her writing to each meeting and, as Tony later observed, “She caught fire.”


As she tasted the discipline required in an artistic endeavor, her writing skills blossomed. By April, she had compiled a portfolio of 10 stories, wisely crafted, sometimes funny and often moving. Each captured special moments in her childhood with her late grandfather. With the addition of photos and artwork, she ended up with a professionally printed chapbook of stories, a testament to the love she and her grandfather shared.


Tony and Todd told me they dream of one day matching mentors to every Santa Fe young person who wants one.


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