Leslie Pyo shares her story

"I love art, and have always found joy in both visual and written expression. Though I came to VCU for the visual arts school, I joined the Honors College eager to continue writing and researching. Finding not one, but two mentors, was huge for me.

"My first mentor is one of the most giving people I've ever met. I met her freshman year when she taught the infamously difficult Honors Rhetoric course (and made it fun!). In fact, I ended up being her TA for that class for the next three years. She doesn’t just help students, she cultivates a culture that creates opportunities for them to help her in return. That’s so important; true kindness creates the space for others to be kind. This mentality becomes infectious and spreads exponentially.

Mentorship was the biggest thing I took out of the Honors College.

"I used those opportunities in different ways, and in the process got a lot of real world experience. It was empowering to know I could help someone who was way more experienced and higher up than me.

"My second mentor came along in my junior year when I took his incredible, discussion-based creative writing course. He is also very giving, and makes it clear that he receives a lot back from his students. He is humbly open about his passion – and almost need – to mentor and teach others. He creates a space to be taught by his students in turn. After we took his course, he opened his home to me and six other eager beavers to hold weekly workshop meetings for our in-progress work. He wasn't paid, and we didn't get credit – it was just for the love of writing and the value we all saw in each other.

When someone else sees the value you see in what you’ve done, it gives you encouragement and motivation to continue.

"His wise, perceptive and caring eye helped me understand my work - to really see what I was trying to do in my writing - and how my methods were and weren't working. When someone else sees the value you see in what you’ve done, it gives you encouragement and motivation to continue. 

"With both mentors, I got to work with people who are not students and also not just professors. They are people who are living successful lives and choosing to invest themselves not just in their 9-to-5 jobs, but in raising up younger people to do well, and to be able to do the same thing for others. That is pretty rare. Seeing people at various stages of life, and various levels of success, choosing to go above and beyond their assigned roles as educators in order to truly get to know and invest in their students, was a huge takeaway and something that will stay with me forever."