Leona Martin is a professional career coach, and a recruiting consultant for Atrius Health. Leona also volunteers as a mentor at Ascentria’s Ruth House through the “Second Acts for Strong Communities” initiative. The initiative’s goal is to create meaningful intergenerational relationships between adults age 50+ and the young people served by Ascentria. Ruth House is one of Ascentria’s Teen Parenting Programs. It serves single teenage mothers and their small children who would otherwise be homeless. The Ruth House offers transitional living in a residential environment. Through counseling, skill building and education, the mothers work on meeting their life and career goals, while developing the skills to be strong parents and contributing members of the community.
Volunteering as a mentor at the Ruth House makes perfect sense to Leona. Although many years have passed since she was a teenage mother, she still vividly remembers the challenges she faced and the emotional pain that she felt. Fortunately for Leona, her mother was very supportive and stood by her. She didn’t judge Leona, and often assured her by saying “We’ll get through this.” She discouraged Leona from marriage and took care of her baby so that Leona could continue her education. Looking back Leona recalled, “I think that the emotional pain gave me the drive to keep moving forward. There were bumps in the road, but I made it!”
When offered the opportunity to volunteer as a mentor at the Ruth House Leona jumped at the chance. “Why wouldn’t I want to give back to young women with children?” she noted, “I can use the wisdom born of my own experience to support these women as they think about their future.”
As a mentor, Leona provides young mothers with encouragement, helping to build their confidence and empowering them to become independent and successful. “To build rapport I share my experiences as a young mother” she explained, “I ask them what their goals are, and discuss what kind of help they might need. Being a safe sounding board for these young women is very important too. We all need people to care about us, compliment us, and not be judgmental.”
For Leona, the traces of emotional pain from years ago are now being filled with great hope and joy. She loves to watch the young mothers at Ruth House interact with their children and during each visit, you are sure to hear Leona say, “You are one of the best mom’s I have ever seen.”
Janet Waters, Ascentria’s manager of the Intergenerational Workforce Project noted, “Leona is a warm and engaging person who cares deeply about her community and the folks who live in it. As a mentor and role model, her impact is immeasurable.”
Leona, we are touched by your outpouring of kindness and empathy. We thank you and want you to know that we think you are one of the best mentors that we have ever seen!