Inspire Santa Fe

Three years ago, nonprofit organizations the Academy for the Love of Learning and Siete del Norte began Inspire Santa Fe, an initiative to provide mentorships to high school students citywide. The program works to connect experienced artists, innovators and performers of every caliber with students that show interest in pursuing similar fields. Inspire Santa Fe currently contracts with five different public schools in conducting the search for their future protégés.

Monica Caldas organizes mentorships with Inspire Santa Fe. Photo by Amaya Hoke

Monica Caldas organizes mentorships with Inspire Santa Fe. Photo by Amaya Hoke

Monica Caldas, a graduate from the College of Santa Fe, organizes mentorship assignments and has herself mentored several students in the art of photography. “It was fun for me to share my passion with students,” Caldas says. “The youth in Santa Fe has a wide range of interests. We try to find professionals in those fields to work with them.”

For students at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, the mentorship program is a great opportunity to not only share an artistic passion, but to cultivate one’s own knowledge in a way that is particular to teaching. While the idea of a mentorship program isn’t entirely new to Santa Fe, Inspire works to create dynamic relationships between mentors and protégés that focus just as much on the mentor as on the protégé. “Teaching helps you absorb the information better yourself,” Caldas says. “When you share something with someone else, it deepens your own understanding.”

Hayley Horowitz, a marketing manager at the Academy for the Love of Learning, agrees with Caldas. “Inspire Santa Fe focuses on the benefit gained from the relationship, for both parties. Anytime you have any kind of relationship with another person, both people are going to walk away from the experience having gained something,” Horowitz says.

Haily Horowitz organizes social media and marketing for the Academy for the Love of Learning. Photo by Amaya Hoke

Haily Horowitz organizes social media and marketing for the Academy for the Love of Learning. Photo by Amaya Hoke

The program begins with the assignment of mentors to protégés. Once a pair has been established, the mentors attend workshops focusing on how to guide their protégés effectively. From there, the assigned duos spend two hours every week together in a one-on-one environment, cultivating both the work and the inspiration. “We try to stay away from ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ We want young people to focus on what excites them right now,” Caldas says.

Inspire Santa Fe’s focus is to not only guide the protégés and mentors in the right direction, but to nurture genuine inspiration and allow for a more natural learning experience. “True learning happens when the student is passionate,” Horowitz says. “And that reignites passion in their mentors.” After working in a personal environment for six to eight months, Inspire Santa Fe hosts a culminating event in which mentors and protégés gather to show off the products of their time together. To Horowitz, the event inspires everyone to take interest in a trade they may have never before considered.

The evidence of the dynamic relationships created are present, both at the culminating event and on social media, where mentors show off the progress they have made to their friends and families. This spread of information about Inspire Santa Fe not only showcases the value of such work, but attracts future volunteers of all trades. Horowitz believes that Inspire Santa Fe has its own community on and thanks to social media networking.

The Inspire Santa Fe Mentorship program has also already provided young students with real world application opportunities and a more professional perspective on their chosen fields. Morelia Cuevas, a previous protégé and recent graduate of Santa Fe High School, not only got to develop her understanding of science and project planning, but with the help of her mentor, Carmen Lopez, implemented a composting program at her school that is still in action to this day. Now Cuevas has moved on to her next adventure in electrical engineering but has left behind her own legacy.

Hannah Weybright, a 14-year-old creative writing protégé told Inspire Santa Fe, “This mentorship has really expanded my knowledge of what an author’s world is really like. I had so much fun and I learned so much more, especially from the perspective of an author.” Weybright was mentored in fiction and fantasy writing by local author Emily Tippetts.

Whether music, dance, cooking, glass blowing, politics or visual tech, there is no limit to what can be inspired. You must be over the age of 21 to apply but do not require any professional experience. Visit the website for more information on how to be a part of the mentorship program.