By: Basya Robinson

The first year of law school can be extremely overwhelming. There are new classes to adapt to, a heavier workload than I’ve ever experienced, and a ton of extracurriculars to choose from. Initially, I wasn’t sure what student groups or extracurricular programs to join but when I heard about the mentoring program through NYU Law Women, I knew that was the right program for me. With all of the stresses of law school, it can be easy to get lost in all of it and lose sight of the things that actually matter. Being part of the mentoring program and building a relationship with Sharmila over the last three years, has served as a constant reminder to me of the important things in life and kept me grounded.

One of my favorite memories with Sharmila was during our first year in the program. We were having trouble finding a time to meet outside of the scheduled events because it was getting dark early and it was not feasible for Sharmila to travel from Queens to Manhattan after school, when it would already be dark out. We decided to meet in Queens near Hillcrest High School, and Sharmila showed me around the neighborhood. We didn’t have any formal activities planned, so we got coffee, walked around, and talked. Getting to know my mentee in this informal setting and talking about our lives, shared experiences, and learning new things about each other’s backgrounds and cultures was one of my favorite experiences in the program.

One of the things I admire most about Sharmila is how dedicated, hardworking, and strong she is. Aside from her full high school course load, Sharmila is constantly involved in other activities, whether it be singing in a community choir, participating in a program where high school students give classes to younger students, and joining numerous college prep programs. Her work ethic inspires me and reminds me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Sharmila has also shown me how to push myself to move outside of my comfort zone. Although she is naturally reserved, she constantly pushes herself outside of her own comfort zone. One excellent example of this occurred following a college admissions panel. After discussing college applications with Sharmila a few times, I realized that one of the admissions counselors on the panel worked at a university that Sharmila had applied to. I encouraged her to go over to the admissions counselor after the panel had finished. I could see that she was initially hesitant to do so, but after taking a deep breath and gathering her thoughts, Sharmila walked straight to the admissions counselor and began telling her that she had applied to the university where the admissions counselor worked and asked her a series of intelligent questions about the courses and activities offered by the school. Sharmila’s willingness to push the boundaries of her comfort zone inspires me to do the same.

Over the course of my three-year relationship with Sharmila and the mentoring program, I have learned that I am capable of giving back to my city in a meaningful way. As a native New Yorker, it’s easy to feel like the city is so big and everyone is so different. But our differences are what make us stronger and giving back to the city that I have lived in my whole life has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. Mentoring is important because it provides an extra tier of support that many students need, that goes beyond the resources received at home and at school. Having a mentor means having someone to talk to, someone who isn’t a teacher or a parent, someone who remembers what the struggles and the challenges of being a high school student are like. Therefore, my advice to anyone interested in becoming a mentor is not to underestimate the value that their mentorship can provide. Everyone’s life experiences, even the mistakes they’ve made along the way, can be a source of guidance and inspiration for others.

Sharmila and I will both be graduating this year. She will be graduating from high school and I will be graduating from law school. Although we will no longer be part of the formal mentoring program, I hope to continue our relationship as Sharmila progresses through college and beyond. I know she will accomplish great things after high school and I am so excited to see what her future holds. Next month, Sharmila will be attending my wedding. It means so much to me to know that my mentee will be a part of one of the most special days of my life and I look forward to celebrating Sharmila’s special life events with her in the future.

Basya Robinson is a Volunteer Mentor with NYU Law Women/Hillcrest High School Mentoring Program through the NYC Department of Education’s New York City Mentoring Program.

Find mentoring opportunities in your neighborhood at nyc.gov/mentornyc.