October 17, 2021

ONONYE | Seniors, It’s Our Turn to be Mentors

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During my freshman year, I joined Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service, a peer mentoring program for womxn of color on campus. Every year B.O.S.S. assigns upper-level mentors to  first-year and sophomore womxn on campus. It is very much a get-as-much-as-you-put-in sort of organization. They provide brunches, movie nights and service opportunities for mentor-mentee pairs to bond, but still encourage them to get to know each other beyond scheduled events. 

My mentor, Amanda Joy-Wright ‘20  (who remained my mentor both freshman and sophomore year), became a big sister on campus. She invited me to hang out with her friends when I was finding my footing on campus, introduced me to Chatty Cathy’s açaí bowls and was a shoulder to cry on through guy troubles. 

Last year, I had a B.O.S.S. mentee who I love very dearly. She and I had CTB coffee dates and late night chats in her dorm. During the pandemic, it felt nice to have someone to support in the same way that Amanda helped me. 

This year, although one of my closest friends on campus is B.O.S.S.’s President, Ezinwa Osuoha ‘22, I really considered not taking a mentee, overwhelmed with so many other things on campus. I ended up signing up (when Ezi signed me up) because there were more mentees than mentors. 

The truth is, with academic, career and extracurricular pressure, it’s hard to be a babysitter. But everytime I think about that, I think about how many babysitters led me here and shaped me into the person I am today. While the amazing faculty and staff on this campus deserve so much credit for the person I am, I also wouldn’t be here without the great friends who paved the path for me. Upperclassmen mentors helped me prepare for internship interviews, chauffeured me around Ithaca for dinners and parties, recommended me for campus clubs and fellowships and checked in on me when I needed it. Now that I am older, many of those relationships have evolved: upperclassmen that I coffee-chatted with in my law frat are friends that I visit in New York City and people who interviewed me for campus organizations now send me memes and funny videos on instagram. 

I saw the same cycle happen with my brother, Ezugo Ononye ‘24, who survived Cornell because some of my friends took him under their wings. I joke about the guy friends he stole from me, who now have a much better read on his Cornell life than I do. They helped him navigate his major, apply for internships, apply for clubs and meet friends on campus. 

I’ve spoken to many of my senior friends who are hesitant about mentoring this year. While we are seniors, our last fully in person year on campus was our freshman year. The pandemic effectively zapped us into upperclassmen, who although hardworking, sometimes feel unprepared to be our school’s leaders. Regardless of how ready you feel to mentor others, you are ready and you are prepared. Your unique experiences at Cornell prepared you to be the person you are. 

I had my first meet-up with my new B.O.S.S. mentee this week, which was a breath of fresh air. We had fun, joking about my least-favorite Cornell classes, checking in on her first few weeks at Cornell and creating the start to a meaningful relationship. I am thankful for this last opportunity to support a student on campus.  

B.O.S.S. is only one of the many ways that seniors can mentor lowerclassmen on campus. Take a little or grand-little in your fraternity or sorority, pick out the freshman who doesn’t have a partner for your next class project, sign up to be an ambassador for your college or major or tutor/TA for an old class that you enjoyed. Every senior on campus can name at least one (and probably many more) students older than them who helped make Cornell their home. Everyone knows that it’s much easier to be a mentee than a mentor, but the culture of our campus dissolves when we don’t make the effort to create a home for those coming after us. 

Anuli Ononye is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Womansplaining runs every other Monday this semester.