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Branch Spotlight: UC Irvine Mentors Facing Challenges During a Pandemic, Finding Hope

By Sarah Yraceburu, Co-Executive Director of WYSE at UC Irvine

The WYSE at UCI branch had a challenging year to say the least. We faced some difficulties with our school site at the beginning of the year and spent our entire fall quarter trying to establish when we could begin sessions for the year.  In early January, our executive directors sat down to find a new school site, and to our great relief, one school responded to our introduction email within an hour of sending it at 8pm on a Friday night.  This was especially promising for us as our previous struggles had been mostly related to unresponsive communications.

After exactly a month of coordinating with the new school site regarding curriculum, scheduling, and the MOU, we had our first session with our mentees on February 5th.  It was so rewarding to finally get back into the WYSE curriculum and begin to develop the relationships with our mentees.  Each week, our mentees were ecstatic to come to WYSE and were ready and willing to participate.  Our mentors gained confidence with each session and provided extraordinary insight which never ceased to amaze our directors.

To have had to cancel the remainder of the year due to COVID-19 has been devastating for our mentors, especially since all of our mentors are either new or graduating - meaning this was either the first year in WYSE or last for every single mentor.  Many of our mentors had already begun to develop strong relationships with the mentees, so we wanted to have the opportunity to wish them a formal goodbye and good luck as they enter high school and beyond. We arranged to drop off the mentee t-shirts (which unfortunately had arrived the evening after our last session with them), along a letter from their mentor and several other goodies.

Although we were unable to continue our WYSE sessions throughout the remainder of the year, we send our mentees off with a reminder of the community we have created in WYSE, which will always be with them and will always support them. Despite all the challenges we’ve faced this year, I personally am hopeful and excited to see how WYSE continues to grow and impact change in the years to come. Each mentor and director have grown so much this year, and while I am sad to leave the organization, I am certain that next year’s directors and mentors, with the support of our national network, will continue to accomplish great things.

Follow more of their story with WYSE at UCI on Instagram.

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