By Margaret Gill
Becoming a mentor with the CAMEO mentorship program might just be the perfect way for you to give back to your community. Mentors with CAMEO have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of students attending LBUSD high schools and Long Beach City College.
The organization provides these students with scholarship opportunities, paid internships, and monthly educational events, but most importantly, it pairs them with an adult from their community that they can go to for support and advice.
A Quarter of a Century Can Do a Lot of Good
Maria Harris, the current Chair of CAMEO, has worked with the organization for 26 years and has seen the way being a mentor can impact a student’s life first hand. During her time with CAMEO, she and the other mentors have helped students achieve academic success and motivated them to pursue higher education. “The student I was paired with last year got a full ride scholarship,” Harris said, “and we had six or seven students who were valedictorians.”
Many of the young adults involved in CAMEO come from under-served backgrounds. Their families don’t have the means to guide them or encourage them to attend college. That’s where their mentor steps in.
“I had a student several years ago whose family was facing a lot of difficulty,” explained Harris. “She was in the process of applying for colleges, and I took her down to San Diego State. We were able to find out about all the financial aid she could get in order to go to college.” Their little trip turned out to be a major turning point in this student’s life. Not only did she attend the university and earn her undergraduate degree, she continued on into post-graduate
studies, as well. “Now she has a Masters degree from San Diego, and she’s the head of a department there. She had a hard road and she surpassed it.”
According to Harris, being a mentor for these students can change your life as much as it can change theirs. “When you have your relationship with the students for three years, you’re always astounded. I’ve had boys, I’ve had girls, I’ve had different ethnicities, and you learn so much from them.”
Just thinking about all of her past students and their successes makes her emotional. “It’s so rewarding to see what they can accomplish. To see them grow and see their families get excited is really great! I don’t know what else to tell you. I love it!”
How You Can Contribute to CAMEO
Anyone who’s currently employed or retired can become a mentor with CAMEO. Although it requires a $110 membership fee and a time commitment of three years, the duration of the program is what allows you to provide stability and consistency in your mentee's life. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to watch them grow, both as a student and a person.
If you still want to support but can’t make the time commitment, consider donating! The funds that provide CAMEO students with stipends and scholarships come entirely from community contributions. You can be the reason a student is able to buy textbooks or get a new computer!
You can learn more about joining or donating at https://www.assistanceleague.org/long-beach/membership/cameo/.