Kai (left) and Jaina (right) were matched two years ago through Moving in the Spirit’s mentor program. They maintain a strong relationship today, even as Kai has graduated and moved to Chicago to attend college. Here, they reflect on their journey and share what makes a lasting mentor relationship.
What have your different roles been at Moving in the Spirit? How long have you each been involved here?
Jaina: I first learned about Moving in the Spirit through volunteermatch.com and have served in some capacity as a volunteer or mentor for the last 3 1/2 years. I have had two mentees in the program and volunteer for many of the events held throughout the year.
Kai: I’ve been a part of Moving in the Spirit for nine years. I started in the Junior Company and continued through the program to the advanced company, the Apprentice Corporation, and graduated from the program. I’ve served on the Moving in the Spirit Board as a student member and I have also been a teacher’s assistant for the Junior Company.
When did your mentoring relationship begin? How long has it lasted?
Jaina: I had the pleasure of meeting Kai at the end of 2013 and still maintain a relationship with her since she has relocated for college. Much like the culture at Moving in the Spirit, I hope that we continue to grow as family and friends.
Beginning a mentoring relationship can be tricky when you initially don’t know the other person well. How did you build trust in your mentoring relationship?
Kai: Our first day out I was nervous because I really wanted us to click.
Jaina: One of the things that helped mold our relationship initially is the fact that we have quite a few things in common. We are both originally from Texas, love dance, and our birthdays are only two days apart.I also let Kai know that I wanted to be a big sister figure and available whenever she needed additional support.
What activities did you do together? How do you maintain your relationship today, now that Kai has graduated and moved to Chicago?
Kai: We love food, so whatever we do there is always food involved at some point in our day. Other than that, our outings vary from roller-skating to movies, food truck festivals to Sky Zone. Now that I live in Chicago we text each other a lot for quick updates.
Jaina: Since moving to Chicago, I make a point to follow-up with Kai at least once a month. I let her know when we first met how important I think it is to have support and since we’ve gotten to know each other better that hasn’t changed.
How has this relationship impacted you?
Jaina: I have gained a sister and friend.
Kai: It has made me a better communicator and has given me a person that I could never replace.
What has been your most valuable takeaway from the mentor/mentee relationship? What have you learned?
Jaina: I think the most valuable takeaway of our relationship is that we are able to be accountability partners for each other. When I initially decided to be a mentor, my focus was to provide guidance and give feedback to assist Kai in her personal endeavors. But, I have gotten just as much great insight from Kai who has encouraged me in my own personal goals.
Kai: I’ve learned that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and to always be honest with yourself.
What has surprised you the most?
Jaina: I am most surprised by how fast the time has gone by. I literally remember sitting in a room meeting Kai at Moving in the Spirit and now I am watching her perform at the Alumni Show.
Kai: I think us becoming so close so quickly is what surprised me the most.
Moving in the Spirit is shifting its mentoring model to emphasize group mentoring opportunities, where mentors can engage with and support an entire dance class. How do you think this shift will benefit both the mentors and the Moving in the Spirit students?
Kai: I think that doing this will give all of the students the opportunity to have a mentor and experience the joy of having someone other than their parents give them advice.
Jaina: This is also great for a mentor because more than one mentor can learn and grown from their guidance and vice versa.