Mentoring Matters

Making an Impact on the Leaders of Tomorrow


“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll

When you reminisce on your childhood and early adult years, was there someone you looked up to? Someone you aspired to be like? Someone who took time to get to know you and helped you realize your potential? If the answer is yes, you had a mentor. Mentors provide us with guidance, motivation, and emotional support as we navigate the oft confusing roller coaster that is adolescence. Research suggests that quality mentoring relationships have an overwhelmingly positive impact on young people when it comes to personal, academic, and professional pursuits. But it’s not only those being mentored who see the benefit of the relationship – mentors can learn just as much from their mentees.

In Chattanooga, we are fortunate to have many organizations that pair mentors and mentees. Here, we’ve highlighted several local duos that help illustrate what it means to be a mentor to our community’s future leaders.


By Lucy Morris | Photography by Emily Long



Mentor Armando Rodriguez and Mentee Eugene

Mentor Armando Rodriguez & Mentee Eugene

Paired by Chattanooga Preparatory School


“Eugene has reminded me of the value of seeing potential in others and making every effort to cultivate it. The first day I met Eugene at Chattanooga Preparatory School, we introduced ourselves, and he immediately told me, “I am glad you are my mentor.” He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him, but he knew I chose to be there. Without missing a beat, he didn’t waste time trying to understand all of my faults but rather focused on building a positive, meaningful friendship. Eugene represents to me what every kid in our community possesses – the potential to be a positive contributor in our community, to be a local or national leader, to be a world influencer. Thank you, Eugene, for allowing me to be a part of your life. I am blessed to know you, I am proud of you for the hard work you put in this past year, and I am super excited to share a future together – onward and upward!” Armando


“My mentor Armando wants me to make it in life. He wants me to be the best that I can and do well in school. He’s a friend to me, and he’s always there if I’m down or if I just need to go talk to somebody. We’ve gone out to eat, and gone shopping, and played, and I’ve been to his house to go swimming. Today we went out to get donuts! He has had a positive impact on my life. Thank you for pushing me to be the best. Thank you for spending time with me and for everything that you have done. Thank you for being my mentor.” 


If you’re interested in mentoring with Chattanooga Prep, visit



Mentor Cyndi Allen & Mentee Gekayla

Mentor Cyndi Allen & Mentee Gekayla

Paired by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga


“Gekayla is one of the most important people in my life. She has taught me what true resiliency in the face of adversity looks and feels like. She has demonstrated dedication in reaching her goals that I have used as an example for myself in reaching my own. Most importantly, she has taught me to give myself and others more grace to be vulnerable while being our authentic selves. I cannot wait to see where her future takes her, and I know that we will remain friends for a lifetime. Thank you, Gekayla, for providing me with an opportunity to help guide you. Thank you for being receptive to what I was saying. Thank you for challenging me and changing me in so many ways. Watching you develop into a strong, assertive, brilliant young woman has been one of the greatest gifts that life has given me. And for that, and for you,
I will always be grateful.”


“I was matched with Cyndi when I was 12 years old, and now I’m headed to college in the fall to study aerospace engineering. What makes Cyndi special to me is how willing she is to accept everyone and stay open-minded. At the beginning of being matched, I didn’t speak much to anyone, and I was very shy around her. Because of this, she had to learn how to wait for me to be comfortable and not push me. I think that I have taught Cyndi how to be patient. I feel that knowing Cyndi and having her guidance has influenced me to think positively but within reason, which is something that I never did before meeting her. Having Cyndi as a Big made me happier.” Gekayla


If you’re interested in mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga, visit



Mentor Ken Jones & Mentee Cameron

Mentor Ken Jones & Mentee Cameron

Paired by Chattanooga Preparatory School


“Cameron provides me with hope and inspiration. Unfortunately, young kids today get lumped into a pool of negativity. Cameron is bright, smart, intelligent, fun, caring, and thoughtful. He is very diligent about getting his studies done and really enjoys spending time with his dad and friends. His work ethic is beyond his age. I see him putting in the work today that will help him be successful tomorrow. He has a bright future ahead of him, which will ultimately impact our community in a positive way. I really want to thank him for being the happy kid he is. He always brightens my day with his smile, and he constantly reminds me that our young generation will do some amazing things. We just have to continue to pour into them and provide a platform for them to flourish.” Ken


“My mentor means a lot to me because he has helped me with things I may not know, like with school and ways of learning. He helps me with my homework when it’s tough, and I have learned a lot from him about his job, sports, and how important school is. Thank you, Ken, for taking me to a football game and helping me with my homework any time I’ve needed it!” Cameron


If you’re interested in mentoring with Chattanooga Prep, visit



Mentor Michelle Glover & Mentee Layla

Mentor Michelle Glover & Mentee Layla

Paired by Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy


“Layla has taught me to listen more intently, to focus on relationships, and most importantly, to be more present in my one-on-one conversations with her. Her determination toward her studies has set a wonderful example for things I can do every day in my life, and the way she treats the people around her makes me appreciate the young woman she’s becoming. Spending time with Layla and the other girls at CGLA has made me appreciate how smart they really are. It has made me so optimistic to see what the future has in store for them, and I’m just fortunate that I can be a small part of it. Layla, thank you for trusting me to be your mentor. I’ll always be here for you!” Michelle


“Michelle has taught me about friendship, family, and that you can talk to anyone you trust. I see her as family. We got paired up in the middle of the year, and every time she would come see me at school, we’d get lunch together. We’d grab our food and talk in line about all sorts of things, and then when we were done, she’d always help me on my projects or any homework that I had. Michelle, thank you for having a good impact on me!” Layla


If you’re interested in mentoring with CGLA, visit



Mentor Toccora Johnson & Mentee Grace

Mentor Toccora Johnson & Mentee Grace

Paired by Girls Inc.


“Grace reminds me about the importance of patience, temperament, active listening, and the greatest gift of all – love. We are complete opposites in many ways, but since meeting her, I have learned what it means to truly understand and support one’s needs. Grace’s personality and presence CALMS me. We bonded over marshmallows! Grace, thank you for being true to yourself and reminding me that each girl is unique. Our time together has taught me that someone is always watching my actions and reactions, and I make decisions to ensure that I’m someone Grace and the other girls can look up to.” Toccora


“Ms. Toccora is awesome, and I love that she knows so much. She answers my questions, she helps me to be more confident, and she always tells me that I can do it! She tells me that I should never let someone tell me I can’t, and I should never give up. She helps me to be strong, smart, and bold! I want to be a doctor when I grow up, and I know Ms. Toccora will make me do my best so I can be a doctor. She tells me I can be anything I want to be, and she cares about me. She always gives me a big hug and is excited to see me, which makes me happy. I love to be around Ms. Toccora, and I am so happy for Girls Inc. because if it were not for Girls Inc., I would never have met Ms. Toccora!” Grace


If you’re interested in mentoring with Girls Inc., visit

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