UH Librarians Participate in Mentorship Program

The Lawson Academy

The Lawson Academy

At the University of Houston Libraries, we leverage the power of partnerships and collaboration to enrich services locally and expand our impact globally. Four UH librarians are enacting this significant value by mentoring students at The Lawson Academy, a Third Ward charter school founded by Rev. William “Bill” and Audrey Lawson.

Emily Vinson, Mea Warren, Anne Washington, and Orolando Duffus volunteer with the Juvenile and Capital Advocacy Project (JCAP) and First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston (First UU) Mentorship Program, a partnership that pairs mentors with The Lawson Academy eighth graders.

Mentors in the program range from graduate students to retirees, and represent various professions and industries across the Houston area. They visit with their mentee over lunch once a week for the duration of the school year, giving The Lawson Academy students the benefit of an additional positive influence in their lives – a friend who will listen, support, and advise them.

The UH librarians serving as mentors in the program enjoy a valuable experience as well. “It’s made me feel like I have a closer connection with the community at large,” Warren, natural sciences and math librarian, said. “I’m reaching out to students who may want to go to UH someday, or maybe want to be in my profession. It’s really cool to be able to help out the younger generation.”

“One of the interesting things about mentoring someone is that it forces you to research and articulate your thoughts much more frequently,” said Duffus, business librarian. “Mentorship is a win-win for everyone involved. I get a sense of fulfillment and personal growth following every interaction with my mentee.”

Finding common ground with the students is an important first step in gaining trust and rapport. Light-hearted conversations about families, classes, music, and celebrities help establish a bond, but the talks are also substantive. Mentors share information on topics such as navigating magnet school selection, higher education pathways, and professional opportunities. Encouraging the students to think about and prepare for their future is paramount.

“Working with students in the historic Third Ward has been a rewarding experience,” said Vinson. “It’s important to engage with the wider community around UH, and the program has allowed me to learn more about my mentee and about the opportunities that The Lawson Academy is creating for the students to help them make important decisions about their education.”

Outreach is integral to the library profession, and that’s what inspires metadata librarian Washington as a mentor. “I believe that libraries are a service to the community,” Washington said. “Introducing and reinforcing the library and librarians as a resource for young people now and throughout their lives is important. It is also personally enriching; I’m learning and sharing in someone else’s experience which has given me the opportunity to reflect on my own experiences.”

AV archivist Emily Vinson shares a film featuring Rev. Bill Lawson discussing civil rights issues circa 1967. Original film is from the KUHT Collection.

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Posted on October 20th, 2016 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on UH Librarians Participate in Mentorship Program