Working in communications for a non-profit housing association in Toronto, Stephanie’s job became “a lot more real” when she became a Peer Project mentor. Her mentee it turned out lived in community housing.
“This is why I’m so excited about the work I do,” says Stephanie. “I know the outcomes are better when a family is living in a safe, affordable home – seeing that makes it all the more real and makes me want to work harder.”
Stephanie, who moved to Toronto from small-town Ontario in 2007, has mentored two teenage girls, one a new Canadian and one a first-generation Canadian. She says “working and doing fun things” with young women from different backgrounds who have grown up in the city has been “a little bit eye opening” and made her think hard about the diversity in the city she lives in .
“The girl I am mentoring now came to me and told me that one of her classmates is pregnant – that was a scenario that was really important to talk about, but tact was very important,” says Stephanie. “My experiences, values, and gut reaction might be different than my mentees’ – so I was careful to ask questions first, instead of just dispensing advice.”
So instead Stephanie asked her mentee: “How do you feel about that?” and “What would you do in that situation?”
Teaching Life Skills
Working with teenagers, Stephanie has tried to impart life skills into her outings. She helped create budget scenarios to demonstrate what a high school grad working a minimum wage job and a university grad working an entry level office job could afford.
“We sat down together and figured out how much that person takes home after taxes, how much they can afford to spend on rent each month and then we went on Craigslist to see what apartments and rooms for rent were available,” Stephanie says. “Financial literacy is very important and a lot of young people are too shy to ask questions about money, earnings and living expenses.”
She also took her recent mentee to the college information fair and by the end her mentee, who is pretty shy, was the one asking the questions and starting conversations with college admissions staffers.
Why She does it
Stephanie was thankful to have really smart and caring people in her life guiding her through her teens and early 20s. She joined The Peer Project to give back what she was lucky enough to receive, plus she really likes doing “fun dorky, touristy stuff” and hanging out with teenagers.
“I see a lot of value there and I see a lot of potential,” says Stephanie.