Mentoring mentality helps McAuley senior thrive
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent May 2, 2014 6:18PM
Mentoring fellow Mother McAuley High School students has been a favorite activity for Raven Willis. | Supplied photo by Nancy Lynch
Updated: June 6, 2014 6:14AM
Raven Willis can look back on her four years at Mother McAuley High School and know that she has left behind a legacy.
In addition to being a varsity basketball player, varsity club leader, co-president of the National Honor Society, a member of National English Honor Society and broadcaster of the daily announcements, she has worked tirelessly as a mentor leader at the school in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
Mentor leaders lend a helping hand to incoming freshmen and guide them throughout the year, encouraging them to get involved and befriending them at a time when high school can seem overwhelming.
“I can put myself in their shoes because as a freshman I didn’t know anyone and it is good to be a guiding hand and to be able to help them,” said Willis, 18.
In fact, mentoring freshman girls has been the highlight of Willis’ high school career because she enjoys seeing their growth take place.
“It is nice to see these young girls about to embark on their freshman year and see how they’ve grown when they’ve reached the end of the year. It is so rewarding,” she said. “It fills me with a sense of accomplishment when I know I played a part in their growth. In the beginning they are so timid and unsure about joining clubs. The change I see in them over the year really gives me joy.”
Willis and other mentors meet two or three times over the summer to prepare for the new school year before they are assigned three freshmen from one homeroom to mentor. As a mentor leader, Willis oversees not just her three freshmen but 12 other mentors and their three freshmen.
“I end up having relationships with a lot of girls in each homeroom,” she said.
This school year, she became particularly close with freshman Kyra Signorelli.
“She was really hesitant about joining clubs and meeting new friends. So we texted almost every night. Now she’s very out there and has a wide group of friends,” Willis said. “She was on the basketball team, too, so I saw her during practices. I got to know her and we’ve become close. She has come a long way.”
Willis has come a long way, too, since she started her high school career. Now, at its conclusion, she’s planning to attend Benedictine University in Lisle next school year with plans to study pharmacology.
“Since I was young, I had an interest in the medical field because my mom is a nurse practitioner and I would spend days with her in the emergency room,” said Willis, who planned ahead for her career choice and took honors chemistry as a sophomore and advanced-placement chemistry as a junior. “I enjoyed those classes, and pharmacy seemed like a good fit.”
She chose to attend Benedictine University and will be playing basketball there.
“Then I learned that they have a good pharmacy school as well,” said Willis, the daughter of Richard and Diane Willis, of Chicago’s Ashburn community.
She said her mother is her role model.
“She has instilled in me so much confidence through her work ethic and how much she is able to produce. She is just an awesome woman,” Willis said.
Willis strives to be like her mom.
“My drive is to be the best I can be and that keeps me focused. The aspiration to be great keeps me focused,” she said.