I was thinking about how much having a true Master Naturalist mentor actually meant to me while I was in Basic Training and I want to send a special thank you to my mentor and all of the chapter members who have mentored trainees over the years. It’s one of those things that doesn’t usually take a lot of time or effort but can mean so much to someone. We learn all this important and amazing stuff, we are trusted to be considerate and careful, using what we have been taught, as we do our things AND we are expected to share the knowledge we gather with others by setting a good example and educating others when we can. Being a mentor is a great way to do this! Let me tell you what my mentor did that was so great.
Carolyn Turman met me on orientation day with a smile and after introducing herself she asked those important questions like “Why are you interested in becoming a Master Naturalist?” and “What kinds of things do you like to do?” and “What are you most interested in?” She told me to use my answers to guide my training and service and I would “… just have lots of fun!” It really set the stage for the day and the entire course. She told me where to find her contact info in our binder and very sincerely assured me that she would be there for me if I had any questions about anything.
Carolyn checked in on me with phone calls and emails just a handful of times during Basic Training to ask how things were going and what we were up to. We chatted, laughed, and shared experiences of training and volunteer work and we always kept it short and sweet. During one class there were representatives from some groups like the Pollinator Partners advising the class about what kind of volunteer work they do and there were some pictures from a State Park event. We were told “That’s Carolyn Turman in the butterfly wings doing a Monarch migration obstacle course!” I was like “Ha! That’s my mentor!” So, several weeks later I volunteered at the Spring Festival and Native Plant sale at Lockhart State Park. I was asked to work on the very same Monarch Migration Obstacle Course (even wearing the wings), and I was so excited I couldn’t wait to tell Carolyn. In May she attended the Graduation and Chapter Picnic and she actually sat with my family!
It may not seem like a lot but what she did was really special to me. It made me feel like I had someone in my corner that was there just for me if I needed them. There can be so many challenges to making it through Basic Training and that kind of support could be the extra piece of confidence needed to keep going and make it through to the finish. Sure, maybe some people don’t need that. In fact, I never once reached out to Carolyn for help but that doesn’t reduce my appreciation for her putting herself out there as a role model, advocate, and a friend.
Carolyn was the perfect mentor for me, and I feel so lucky. I hope all of you have a similar feeling about your mentors and hope that you will consider putting yourself out there for a future Master Naturalist-in-Training. The more of us who serve as mentors, the better off we will all be—now and in the future.
Thanks to all the mentors who have been there for all of us, especially you Carolyn!