Ylise Janssen, an attorney in the Austin Independent School District’s legal services department, was recognized March 22 for her work and impact as a mentor with the Seedling Foundation.
Created in 1998, the Seedling Foundation responds to the needs of public schools in Texas by providing resources, assistance and programming. Its signature service is the Promise Mentor Program, which connects volunteer mentors in the community with Central Texas students who have a parent in prison.
This year alone, the foundation has served more than 500 students, many of who attend the 64 AISD schools where the foundation currently has mentors. Currently, the Seedling Foundation has mentors serving seven school districts.
Between AISD’s central office and Baker office, 32 AISD employees volunteer as Seedling mentors.
“You can’t put a price tag on the lifetime value that mentorship has for both the mentor and the student, ” said Janssen, who began volunteering as a mentor with the Seedling Foundation five years ago.
Janssen was matched with Christina, who, at the time, was a student at Dobie Middle School. Through the program, Janssen and Christina met nearly every week at school, often for lunch, up until Christina graduated from Travis High School. Sometimes Janssen would offer advice on school, or tough things Christina was going through. Other times, she just listened or talked about her own personal experiences and mistakes she had learned from.
“It was so rewarding for me because I got to see how Christina was becoming a great role model for her siblings and I could offer her extra parental or big sister advice, which sometimes we don’t get enough of,” Janssen said. “At the same time, I learned to better value the opinions, dreams and goals of youth in America, and I have faith in them.”
Christina is now a freshman at Sul Ross State University, where she is interested in pursing education or law.
“I have no doubt she will become a lawyer or politician or someone great who makes a big impact on those around her,” Janssen said.
Sari Waxler, executive director of the Seedling Foundation, commended Janssen for her service.
“Christina’s life could have taken a different path had she not been introduced to Ylise,” Waxler said.
Janssen is not the first AISD employee to be recognized by the Seedling Foundation. Recently, Dr. Mary Thomas, administrative supervisor in the district’s State and Federal Accountability Office, was honored for her role as a longtime mentor to Willie, a student at Bedichek Middle School with whom she was matched for five years.
“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to interact in the growth and development of building Willie’s character,” Thomas said. “And what I learned is that all children need to feel that they are accepted, that they are significant and that there is security for them.”
Falba Turner, project director for the Seedling Foundation’s Promise Mentor Program, encourages AISD staff members and community members to consider mentoring a student.
“There is great joy in mentoring a student, and anyone can do it,” Turner said. “The Seedling Foundation offers ongoing support and training to our mentors so each one feels confident being the most effective adult friend possible to a child.”
For more information or to volunteer with the Seedling Foundation, visit http://www.seedlingfoundation.net/content/view/35/59/.