How old is too young to give back?

My old high school has a past student association with chapters all over the world. There’s a chapter right here in Montego Bay, one in Kingston, one in New York, and one in Florida. Mobay High girls probably make up 90% of the diaspora, trekking all over the world with our brilliance.

I’m not even exaggerating. People I graduated with already have PhDs, incredible careers and families, or they’re getting paid to travel (in a legit way, not like a pyramid scheme way).

MBHS graduates have a reputation for being pretty awesome. Which is why it’s so rewarding to join an association whose main purpose is giving back to the school that nurtured us. Or at the very least provided a pit stop on the way to our success. Giving back in the form of construction projects, financial support, scholarships and mentoring has been a rewarding experience over the last two years, and this year we’re continuing the trend.

Any past student can volunteer to be a big sister to one of the students who sign up. We’re usually understaffed with volunteers – last year some of the mentors had to double up on mentees (yikes), and this year some of them dropped out because of time constraints (double yikes). Even though we never seem to have enough big sisters for the number of excited little sisters , the committee behind the mentorship programme stays so darn determined to help however many girls they can. It’s truly a motivation.

We usually find girls from first form all the way up to sixth form, paired with mentors who graduated from as early as the 1970s. The age gap can make some of the interactions more parental than sisterly, but to their credit the mentors have been getting rave reviews, and many big and little sisters choose to stay in touch beyond the one year time frame.

Sometimes it feels like I’m too young to have anything of real value to offer someone who’s only 10 years younger than me (and some of them more than 10 years – I am getting old). But what these girls need more than grey-haired wisdom is support and encouragement and a listening ear. They want what we all wanted in high school: to feel like we mattered and like someone (a grown-up) was listening to what we had to say.

And that’s so easy to give. The time spent chatting on social media, the drives home, the movie nights, the mixes and mingles; just being present in their lives as a positive influence can have so much impact.

I know not everyone is cut out to be a mentor. And some people are still working through the trauma of their high school experience so they might not be in a good place to reach out. But if you feel like you’re too young, or too old or too busy I invite you to think differently. You have a lot to offer a younger person, just by having their best interests at heart. And if you prioritize giving back, no matter what age you are, you’ll get a good old-fashioned buzz of warm, fuzzy fulfillment.

If you’re a past student of Montego Bay High, help us reach more girls! If you’re not, maybe find an organization that does something similar and see how you can get involved. Whether it’s mentoring at risk kids, volunteering at an infirmary or donating to a drop-in centre there are so many opportunities to give. And there’s no age limit whatsoever.

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