“Mentoring is really about being there for someone, offering guidance … opening up horizons, and just providing an open ear and an open heart,” Dr. Pamela Blake said.
With a PhD in Geology and Geophysics, Blake has worked as a scientist at Boeing for 20 years. In her position as a Technical Fellow, Blake provides expertise in Earth Remote Sensing. In her free time, she also provides expertise, giving guidance to local youngsters as a youth mentor in a program called Operation Jump Start (OJS).
OJS was established to serve Long Beach Unified School District students. Founded in Long Beach in 1994, the organization works to help low resourced, high potential first generation students “get in, stay in, and graduate from a four-year college.” The program relies on the generosity of volunteers who offer academic support, mentoring and exposure to a broader world.
Blake joined the OJS team in 2009. She said the group provides mentors with training and ongoing guidance, as needed. However, Blake admitted that she had to overcome one initial obstacle on her own; she realized that she had to learn to text in order to communicate with her young mentees.
Despite the challenges of frequent travel and a busy schedule in her professional life, Blake has spent 10 years as an OJS volunteer. She said it is not easy to carve out time for her mentees, but it is definitely worth it “to feel like I’m helping someone reach their goal, and to watch them grow and mature.”
Blake and Brittany Soung began meeting during Soung’s freshman year at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. At the end of August, Soung will be entering the nursing program at Long Beach City College. Soung said that throughout their relationship, whenever she has needed advice about school or life, she has been able to turn to Blake.
“Pam’s mentoring to me means having a friend who is always there to support me, both personally and professionally,” Soung said. “We would go eat at cool restaurants, college tours, and we even went scuba diving together in Catalina Island. I think it’s important to have a professional mentor who can also be his or her friend.”
Andres Ramirez, the College Access Program Manager at OJS, said that Blake’s 10-year commitment is above and beyond program expectations. He said she is a great example for other mentors.
“Pam is a kind-hearted individual who is a great listener and gives wonderful feedback to her mentees,” Ramirez said. “She shares her life experiences and motivates others to follow their dreams.”
Blake said she truly enjoys the one-on-one relationships she has built with her mentees. For her, she said, the connections go beyond the program.
“I am very personally interested in the lives of the three students I have mentored and have kept up with the two who have graduated,” Blake explained.
Blake’s current mentee is Wendy Rodriguez, a high school sophomore at Jordan High. Because they met when Wendy was in eighth grade, the duo is entering their third year together. Wendy said she is grateful for Blake’s friendship as well as the doors she has opened. Together, they have toured several colleges and visited places like the San Diego Zoo and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
“She always finds these engineering fairs and colleges where we could roam around… She has exposed me to this academic life that I would never have known about if it weren’t for her,” Wendy said. “Pam is the sweetest person ever, and she’s the funniest. No matter where we go or how long we were together, there’s no way that I leave without a smile on my face.”