As a first-generation college student, Jah’Niya Myers continually faces a number of firsts. But when she was matched with her Project Learning Tree (PLT) green mentor, Lydia Kidane, PLT’s Education Programs Coordinator, she found someone who could relate.

Many first-generation college students can benefit from mentorship, as they often lack a network of graduates to guide and support them through the process of graduating from school and beginning their professional career. Kidane herself did not have a mentor in her earlier school years, and she realized later the power that a mentorship relationship can bring. It’s for this reasonthat she served as the University of the District of Columbia’s graduate student advisor for  Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

Myers learned about the PLT Green Mentor program from her advisor at Washington State University, where she studies Environmental and Ecosystem Sciences and participates in the school’s MANRRS chapter.

“I decided to participate in this program because I felt that I was at a point in my undergraduate career where I needed guidance and someone to relate to that had gone down a similar path,” she said. “In my school, I rarely met someone with similar passions and interests in a career, and I was starting to feel alone and doubting the path I was on. So being able to speak with people who were already doing the things I saw myself doing and being as excited about topics I’m interested in was a very important thing I needed to be surrounded by.”

Mentors and mentees in the SFI Conference Green Mentor program met in person at the 2022 SFI/PLT Conference in June 2022. Just attending this conference was a series of firsts for Myers: flying on a plane, leaving her home state, and meeting her mentor. But the experience offered her more than she could ever have imagined.

“When I joined the PLT Green Mentor program and went to their conference, it was definitely life-changing. I was able to meet more people who could relate to many of the experiences I have had and who care about the topics and problems in the world as much as I do. I was able to explore more career interests and learn more about the things I can do with my degree.”

Myers emphasizes that mentorship programs must be established for first-generation college students, to help people like her establish a support network and professional connections to advance their careers.

“I finally feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, and gaining enthusiasm back for the career I have wanted for a long time,” she said. “Talking with Lydia gave me someone I could contact anytime I needed, a listening ear, or push in the right direction. I genuinely feel that this is an extremely beneficial mentorship relationship.”

Kidane also enjoyed her mentorship relationship with Myers and offered advice to future mentees:

  • Find a formal mentorship program: Many are free and provide continuous support, like PLT and PLT Canada’s Green Mentor programs.
  • Reach out to people who are working in a field that interests you: If they love what they do, they are often happy to help and guide the next generation of forest and conservation leaders.

Apply to PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program

PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program is recruiting mentees and mentors until Sept. 5, 2023!

PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program connects young adults ages 18-30 with Green Jobs professionals. The free mentorship program involves meeting (in person or virtually) two or three hours a month. Mentees can expand their green jobs knowledge, goals, and network. Mentors can inspire the next generation of leaders, recruit employees, and gain new perspectives. PLT is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

Learn more about PLT Canada’s Green Mentor program.


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