Brooklyn Boulders Foundation’s CITY ROCKS program has successfully paired over 50 high school students with mentees in 2015. Mentors seek to empower and positively impact youth through emotional guidance and physical movement like climbing! Meet BKB climber and City Rocks mentor Iman Leslie, a woman who found great joy and transformation in volunteering and connecting with her mentee, Miranda Gomez.
How long have you been climbing?
I started climbing as a teenager at a summer camp, I have very vivid memories of it, so when my friend and I rediscovered it as adults it was great! As an entrepreneur, it helps relieve stress and it’s a mental stimulant to help you keep going even when you’re afraid. I’ve failed at some of my businesses, but I’ve continued– and I think it’s the same for rock climbing! It’s part of the journey.
Who is your mentee? How did they match you guys up?
Miranda Gomez. They matched us up because my roommate moved away and she asked if I would take over for her. They have more students than they have mentors, so it’s just a matter of who shows the most enthusiasm in the group, and if there’s a mentor available for them.
Can you tell us more about Miranda?
Miranda’s very much a city girl, and savvy! She geeks out about computers, and certain internet phenomenon. She’ll teach me how to play the game Magic, which is quite a complex and intricate game, and she’s tried to teach me several times. Very smart, very self-aware, and I think that she really embraces who she is. She’s also quite an athlete– she is relentless in climbing, which I really admire that about her.
How much time do you spend mentoring?
Time commitment is four hours a month at minimum, but is dependent on how often you and your mentee want to or can meet. Miranda and I met twice a month for about three hours each time, but would meet more when we had time, and less when she was super busy with SAT prep and college applications.
What do you feel are the effects of your mentorship?
I think I help make her more self-aware about some of her passions. I also think that I’m another person she feels she can trust. Being an only child, sometimes you need that– an older person you can share things with, to give you some guidance who is different from your parents, because you want some varying perspectives. We definitely developed a level of trust.
How has mentoring affected you?
At the time [I started mentoring] I was miserable with my new job, and I was a miserable person.
It was great to work with Miranda because she helps me expand my world– it’s not just about me and my job situation. it’s more like: here’s a young person who’s trying to figure it out. Don’t be the grouch. That was my first foray into volunteering as a regular thing. It really has made my life so much more rich.
After I left that job I started The Style Editor: a business working with women to help them figure out what they should keep or what they should throw out in their wardrobe. Part of my mission is to make fashion more green, more sustainable.
Getting involved with the Brooklyn Boulders Foundation is like dipping my toe in the water and then wanting to jump in. Volunteering helps me see that you’re just part of the community, and you have to see outside yourself. You’re doing it because you really care about this cause.