Janet Pichardo

Why is mentorship important and how do you enact it in the world?

The first word that comes to mind when I hear the word mentorship is “Coach”. A mentor guides you on your path, offering clarity and a sense of encouragement with regards to your interests, hopes and dreams.

I remember my first mentor – Julie White, a college advisor at CCRI. She was an inspiration for me, who believed and listened to what I had to say and made sure I felt cared for. She also wanted to make a difference, noticed I may not have had exposure to the world and asked me to take a career interest test to determine my direction beyond CCRI. The test results included career options I had never considered; but there was one common theme – the opportunity to help others because of my compassionate nature. Julie White is a friend to this day; I truly appreciate her and her willingness to give of her time, show me love, affection and be the role model of a professional woman making a difference in the lives of so many youth.

Mentorship is a natural act for me, especially in my work experiences and as a parent. In my current job, as in my previous work, I am blessed to provide the guidance necessary to help others be successful, as well as an active listener in which they can confide. Families are struggling and feeling lonely, helpless, marginalized, disrespected and disregarded. Many times these feelings can create depression and agitation which can affect the social and emotional state of a child. I am mindful of this and always put myself in that person’s place, asking myself, “Imagine if that were you; what would you do?” Many simply do not know where to go or what to ask; as a mentor I help them find programs and services that can assist them.

As a mother of three children – ranging from elementary to high school – mentorship becomes part of parenting. Although my husband and I are both college graduates, we too struggle with figuring out the best way to raise our children to become successful and productive citizens in society. We are very involved in the community and make it a point to share our experiences with our children, bad or good. This provides a realistic point of view of the world, and how it’s not easy and working hard is how you get to where you want to be. A challenge that is common amongst parents is learning how to help children be responsible for their actions and acknowledging their mistakes, while also picking themselves up after something doesn’t go as planned.

Mentors are a bright light, a gentle smile, a confidante, a shoulder to cry on and a trustworthy friend who unconditionally cares and is openly willing to prepare another human being for their life’s journey. Every youth deserves a mentor.

Janet Pichardo is the director of family and community engagement for the Providence School Department. Since 2003, she has worked with district staff, community organizations and parents with developing and implementing district initiatives to improve student achievement in the state’s largest school district. She is involved in various steering, advisory and working groups with a focus of doing what is best for kids while including parent voice along the way. Her previous work experience in the state and banking industry allowed her to assist individuals with the “know how” of accessing home ownership and entrepreneurship opportunities. Her active participation in the community has shaped a strong willingness to make a difference in the lives of others. Pichardo has a Master’s Degree in Global Business-Organizational Leadership from Johnson & Wales University and in 2007 was an award recipient of the “40 Women We Admire” from Big Sisters of Rhode Island.

photo by Agapao Productions