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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Profiles of Empish Thomas and Jael Espinal: Journalism Mentor and Mentee

By Empish Thomas and Jael Espinal

This story involves four people: Empish Thomas, who has been a CareerConnect mentor for the last four years; Jael Espinal, who is Empish's mentee; and lastly, Doug Hall and Patricia Beattie, who were Empish's CareerConnect mentors and in many ways set the wheels in motion for these two women, Empish and Jael, to meet and have a story to tell. (Listen to an interview with Doug concerning his thoughts on mentoring.) Please join us, the CareerConnect staff, in thanking them all for their efforts and Empish and Jael for their sharing this delightful article.

Empish's story:

I have been a mentor with the American Foundation for the Blind's CareerConnect program for the last four years. It has been a rewarding experience as I have built valuable professional relationships while strengthening my journalism skills. It has been a great opportunity to give back what has been given to me. When I considered becoming a mentor, I reflected on the many teachers, counselors, colleagues and my parents who all helped me to move in the right direction to a successful future. We all can reminisce about people who have impacted our lives and helped us to learn valuable lessons by their careful instruction and words of wisdom.

Learning lessons this way can be very beneficial because of the valuable information that is passed on without the uncomfortable experiences of learning things the hard way. So many times I have seen people who do not pass on the knowledge they possess because they feel that others should learn things the hard way. Or some are fearful that others will surpass them if they share important information with them. I disagree with both of these philosophies because I have found that when I open myself up to help someone else my gift comes back to me. As the saying goes, "What goes around comes around."

I initially went into the mentoring program to learn how to be a journalist while having a visual impairment. I have only been blind for about five years and was making a career change back into journalism. I had little knowledge of how to proceed in my career. I was both elated and encouraged when I found out about CareerConnect and have sung its praises ever since. By interacting with more experienced people, I have learned important lessons, techniques, and strategies for my life and career. Allowing me to learn from seasoned journalists not only boosted my self-esteem and encouraged me to continue pursuing this career option; but it also motivated me to become a mentor.

Mentoring has a dual function because each participant benefits from it. As a mentor you are given the opportunity to help another person; and as a mentee you learn from an experienced person. As I was being mentored, I also became a mentor. I am currently working with Jael Espinal, a high school student who wants to become a journalist. I was grateful for this opportunity because I was given the chance to pass on my knowledge and expertise. I also had a desire to understand what it is like to be a child with a visual impairment, since I lost my vision as an adult. Through this and similar experiences I have learned that most children with disabilities do not receive the support and encouragement that they desperately need to flourish and be successful. The children are our future and I want to assist them in their endeavors. I also feel it is important for children and young adults to see what their future can be like by interacting with adults in productive careers.

Lastly, mentoring has kept my skills sharp. When setting the example for someone else you are more apt to perform well. This experience has challenged me to heighten my skills in my personal and professional life. As a result, I am a better journalist and the opportunities to write have greatly increased.

Jael's story:

I initially contacted Career Connect because I wanted to network with visually impaired adults who were in careers of interest to me. I contacted Empish, in particular, because her profile sparked an interest—it just kind of clicked! One of the benefits of being a mentee with CareerConnect was the opportunity to network. Interacting with professionals can give you additional contacts because of their knowledge of the field. As a result of my mentoring relationship with Empish I have been able to converse with other journalists and learn more about the field. Specifically, this mentoring relationship gave me more ideas on how to write leads and conclusions that I couldn't have gotten or even understood from my high school teachers. The ability to enhance the knowledge that you already have is another benefit of mentoring. We cannot expect to get all of our information from one or two sources.

I believe it is good to brainstorm and discuss different techniques with a mentor. Empish was able to give me ideas on articles that I could present to my journalism teacher. Her expertise as a writer allowed her to give me valuable resources that I could use when writing.

In career mentoring, you don't just get the benefits of working with an experienced professional; you can discuss social things as well. I have also learned valuable lessons for life such as how to be a better advocate, how to network with other blind organizations, and I've received useful information about going to college.

Editor's Note: Empish traveled from Georgia to Texas to attend Jael's graduation from high school this year. Congratulations to Jael for completing high school and to Empish for her mentoring support!

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