Mentoring is nothing new for Ellen Smith Eaton. While her two children were in school, Ellen was also in school—mentoring students. She volunteered for nearly 20 years in Eagle County Schools, helping children with their studies. When her children finally graduated (they are both in their twenties now), Ellen wanted to continue her advocacy work with students, however, she quickly learned that the local schools didn’t have a place for volunteers who weren’t parents of current students. So she turned to the Bright Future Buddy Mentors program.
Ellen was matched with Abel in January 2014, and they have been together ever since. This means that Ellen has been with Abel since he was a little 8-year-old, navigating the halls of third grade, through the middle school years and the early teenage years. Throughout this time, Ellen has been a confidant and a safe space, a consistent presence for Abel during a time of life that can be challenging for everyone.
Ellen’s advice to new mentors: have patience. There is going to be miscommunication, and times when the relationship isn’t fulfilling, but remember the big picture and the important role that the mentor plays in the Junior Buddy’s life. She also stresses the importance of “showing up and listening.” Ellen appreciates that the benefits of mentoring don’t come from expensive excursions, but from spending time together. She has seen Abel’s confidence build from going on hikes around the valley, exploring old mountain cabins and playing in the river.
Abel isn’t the only one who benefits from the relationship. As Abel’s senior buddy, Ellen says she has a respect for the Hispanic community that she didn’t have before Buddy Mentors. She admires the strong women in Abel’s life, and the way they work together to raise him. She also has a new appreciation for the struggles that primarily Spanish speaking guardians face, especially when dealing with school related issues.
Buddy Mentors would like to thank Ellen for her many years of volunteering, and for being someone who matters to someone who matters!