Being a WE CAN Mentor Changed My Life

After spending several summers visiting Cape Cod, Marilyn McMillan made it her full time home and relocated from New York. She admits she was a bit unsure about leaving her fast paced world in higher education administration and her diverse multi-cultural community.

“I knew I wanted to still be involved in something. I wanted to work on more than just my golf game. I don’t actually play golf but I didn’t want to drift away in the sand dunes,” laughed McMillan.

Throughout her time visiting Cape Cod, McMillan had heard about WE CAN and really respected the work they do. WE CAN is based on the concept of Women helping Women. The women who are helped are those who find themselves at a point in life where they are facing a difficult circumstance, ranging from divorce to financial problems. Others have decided they want to make a big change such as going back to school or pursuing work after a long period of unemployment.

These women are called PathMakers by the organization. They are able to set out a path and set goals to achieve over the course of a year. In the past, WE CAN has seen women find employment, graduate from university, retain or regain custody of their children, and pursue dreams.

Marilyn initially inquired about becoming a Mentor because it was something she’d done throughout her career. And it was something that she herself had benefited from in the past. This was something that echoed through many of the mentors she met.

“There was a real sense of paying it forward from the mentors. Finding a community of women who were committed to this purpose was terrific,” said McMillan.

It wasn’t just the common goal that drew Marilyn in, but the many ways there were unlike.

“The group of mentors and the PathMakers are very diverse. The variety of backgrounds and skills were very enriching. Many of us were new to full time living on the Cape, but there were all ages and all backgrounds,” said Marilyn.

When I ask Marilyn how she was matched with her PathMaker, you can feel her excitement.

“This is what sold it to me. I knew I wanted to be involved but this is what sealed the deal,” enthused McMillan. After completing a 3 page survey, it’s put into a binder which all the PathMakers are able to view and select possible mentors to meet with during a speed dating time event.

“I loved that from the very beginning these women were put in the driver seat. They chose who they’d like to speak to and when they did they asked all the questions. They are given the power of choice to ask us anything to make their decision. It sets up the dynamic because they are creating the path for the next year,” said McMillan. Following the event, the PathMakers rank the Mentors they like and are matched for the year.

Marilyn said that she never found the time commitment to be too much. “Many of the PathMakers have families of their own, jobs, things going on,” she said. Over the course of the next year, Marilyn met with her PathMaker once a month in person and communicated over text, email, or phone once a week.

She also participated in a monthly meeting of just mentors. “We would meet whenever it worked for us. My PathMaker and I would sometimes meet over coffee or lunch, weekend or weekday, everyone has busy lives so we could make things flexible and what worked for both of us,” said McMillan.

Throughout the course of the year, Marilyn witnessed huge changes in the life of the PathMaker she mentored.

“She grew in confidence to the point that she was able to get up and speak in front of a group of other PathMakers. She was able to speak more confidently about her skills and experiences in a workplace setting. She became aware of how to explore job opportunities and feel comfortable going out and looking for work. She was able to identify her own accomplishments. She also set boundaries in her personal life to allow room for herself to grow,” said McMillan.

What Marilyn maybe wasn’t expecting was how much she would gain from the program. The entire mentorship is led by the mentee, the PathMaker. The mentor is there not to guide, but to assist in how the PathMaker directs during the year long process. “There is a real learning process on the side of the mentors. You have to stifle that reaction to give advice. You are there to meet the PathMaker wherever they are and accept them. I stretched and learned as much as any of the women who were Pathmakers in the program.”

That’s really important and noticeable in the program. You are in the passenger seat. The PathMaker is completely in charge of what she wants to accomplish,” said McMillan.

This is what influenced Marilyn the most. “I became a completely different type of mentor. I stretched and learned as much as any of the women in the PathMaker program. I learned a completely different type of listening skill and compassion,” said McMillan.

“I saw changes on three fronts. The PathMaker was changing her life, I became a different type of mentor, and the program grew thanks to the feedback that was given to WE CAN by both Mentors and PathMakers.”

WE CAN is currently accepting applications for mentors for the 2017-2018 year. Mentors at WE CAN range in ages from 20s-70s with a wide range of skills and background and a common desire of wanting to give back. “I came with no expertise just as a woman of a certain age who has been through various life experiences and had a clue about what good support is,” explained McMillan.

If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. WE CAN is currently recruiting mentors to begin in August. They are particularly in need of mentors in the Falmouth area. Call or email Tracy Johnson and let her know of your interest 508-430-8111 or[email protected]

By Rebecca Romo, Lifestyle Reporter CapeCod.com


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