“Pass on What You Have Learned”
You don’t have to go to a galaxy far, far, away to find Jedi Masters mentoring their Padawans. Ann has built such a relationship with Avery in the state of North Carolina. Their bond stands out for two reasons: First, Ann is Avery’s mentor mom, and second, Avery isn’t nearly as excited about travelling across the galaxy as Anakin Skywalker was. (I was the same way—my own mother drug me into the Star Wars Universe kicking and screaming and I’ve thanked her for it ever since. I’m not sure who enjoyed my Star Wars toys more, me or Mom.)
Avery had never seen a Star Wars movie when Ann met her. She enjoyed the Star Wars: Rebels cartoon, but never demonstrated interest in watching the original films. “It came up in conversation that of all of her family she’s the only one who didn’t like them,” Ann told me. “Siblings, parents, yes, everybody loves Star Wars except for her and I was like, nope, nope, we have to remedy that! So, as Mentor Mom I said, ‘Give her to me!’”
Ann knew there is strength in numbers. She enlisted the help of several friends to lend their insight to the films and help create a casual atmosphere for the marathon. So early one Saturday morning, Ann picked up Avery, blasted some industrial and grunge music, and shoved her Millennium Falcon to lightspeed for a full day of Star Wars that began with “Episode IV: A New Hope” and continued all the way to “Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” Though the year is 2016, the original trilogy was viewed on VHS (the original theatrical productions before they were “enhanced” in the late ’90s).
At the end of the first movie, Avery, who remained quiet and well-mannered throughout the day, said it was “OK,” but remained reserved. “Be patient with it,” one of Ann’s friends, Liana, had told her, “It’s hard to imagine a world without mobile phones, but this was the technology they had [in 1977]. . . .George Lucas had so much more in his head but was limited by the technology of the time.”
Due to a commitment with her school choir to sing the national anthem at a local sporting event, Avery could only watch through to the freezing of Han Solo in “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.” What a cliffhanger! Though Avery said she had trouble following the action of the second film, Ann reports that she agreed to watch all of the films now that she’s gotten a start.
“Mind What You Have Learned. Save You It Can.”
Where would Frodo have been without Gandalf, Batman without Alfred, or Neo without Morpheus? These leaders weren’t the heroes, but their time investment to pass on their wisdom empowered the their charges to take on the quest themselves. While mentors like Gandalf might have been plot-changers in their own right, the hero has to face that moment where he must make that critical decision on his own, and though he often feels unworthy of the task, his mentor’s wisdom has prepared him in more ways than he knows.
Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership released a study on the impact mentoring has on young people. The organization reports that of “young adults who were at-risk for falling off-track but had a mentor are: 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, 90% are interested in becoming a mentor, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.” In addition, “youth who meet regularly with their mentors are: 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking,” and “mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Mentored youth tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them.”
Mentoring is as old as ancient history. Many successful people had a mentor that believed in them, such as Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry, Thomas Jefferson and Merriwether Lewis, and the history-making legacy chain of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great.
Meaningful mentorships can start anywhere. Asimov and Roddenberry first corresponded through the editorial section of TV Guide. Ann met Avery’s mother, Jen, through a Sunday school beach retreat.
“[I] got to know Jen and got to know about her family and stuff and she’s like, ‘You know, my middle daughter needs a mentor mom,’” Ann recalled. “I came over for dinner and met with the family and Avery and I just took to each other and so that was that!”
What kind of mentoring does Ann give Avery? “I teach her the Force,” she said with a mischievous laugh. “I indoctrinate her into Star Wars movies!”
More seriously, Ann works with Avery’s family to serve as a non-parental role model. “[I’m] there so that in case she would need to talk to somebody and not necessarily quite comfortable yet talking to her parents, but yet her parents trust me with that information to do the best thing for her. You know. . .to help guide her in whatever situations she’s having. . . .It’s not to keep secrets from the parents.” Ann remembers what it was like to be thirteen and wants to use her experience to help guide Avery through the difficult years of adolescence. “For her birthday, I bought her a journal, because she turned 13 years old and knowing how much that writing is an outlet for me, and how my teenage years were not super-tuper fantastic, I thought that this would help another young lady navigate becoming a woman.”
But what about Avery’s reluctance to embrace the ways of the Force? Ann has a plan: “I will sit on her lap until she understands and loves the movies!”