By Lori Lyn Lirio
THE 10th Mentor for a Meal organized by the Million Dollar Scholar, in cooperation with the Marianas Young Professionals and Public School System teachers, at the Naked Fish Bar And Grill in Saipan was a complete success.
Program organizer Gerard Van Gils said it was the biggest ‘Mentor for a Meal’ event they held late last month with 95 participants, including 42 high school students – who got a one-on-one mentoring from professionals of various field.
Van Gils and Kagman High School former co-teacher Jay Sanchez initiated the program in 2015.
“We paired a professional member of our community with our high school student, who is preparing to enter the higher education or the workforce,” he said in an interview.
Under the program, professional mentors pay for a dinner for themselves and their students. It gives an opportunity for senior high school students from Marianas High School, Saipan Southern High School and Kagman High School to ask and get career advice from professional mentors.
Van Gils said among those who participated were entrepreneurs, accountants, engineers, doctors, someone from the government, including Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his wife first lady Diann Torres. There were also members of the Legislature – Representatives Ed Propst and Vinnie Sablan.
Propst shared that he mentored Angel Legaspi, a senior from Marianas High School.
Propst with his mentee sat with Rep. Vinnie Sablan and his wife Roca with two other students and had a group discussion.
“Some of the advice we shared with our mentees was to find your passion and a career that you will love. It was Confucius who said, ‘choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ We advised them not to be so hard on themselves and to expect setbacks and disappointments and learn from your mistakes. Nobody is perfect. We shared personal experiences and how we grow as people,” he said.
Rep. Sablan said it was his fourth time to participate in Mentor for a Meal.
“I’ve always enjoyed sharing stories and experiences with the mentees in hope that it would pave a smoother road ahead for the students. I wish there were programs like this when I was growing up.”
He shared many pointers with his mentee Isabel Palacios to make her journey easier.
“Yesterday was a real victory for public education. What we are doing is bringing our public school students to interact with our professional community and everybody wins,” Van Gils said.
The 42 students are preparing for higher education.
Van Gils said he saw positive feedback from the participants, especially from the students.
“They shared great stories online after these events. They are sharing stories about hope and how they are optimistic about their future. They are sharing stories online about advice they got from their mentors. They are sharing advice with other kids,” Van Gils added.