Sarah Ford | April 6, 2014

Mentor Pair Highlight: Rachel Levin & Eli Capello

By Rachel Levin, Associate Professor of Biology & Neuroscience at Pomona College and Point Mentor to Eli Capello

Work within the LGBTQ community both here in Claremont, California and nationally is something about which I am passionate.  Being a parent and a professor, I am also painfully aware of what happens to kids of any age who are different in any way at both public and private schools and, unfortunately, what happens in some families when someone comes out.  I am also aware, as a scientist, of the abuse and marginalization that the LGBTQ community has suffered at the hands of science.  I love to use my familiarity with and membership in both communities to change that.   I want to provide whatever support, information, and networking I can to encourage our youth, especially in science where so much activism is needed, to bring attitudes and approaches into the 21st century. I feel so lucky that Point Foundation accepted me as a mentor and grateful to Point for having brought Eli and I together.

So many struggles are universal- how to know the best career path for yourself, how to make it through a rough spot in a relationship, how to deal with self-doubt, how to deal with a recalcitrant dog….  One of the best things in life is finding someone that you respect and can trust and nurturing that relationship.  I feel that with Eli.  I may be the “mentor” and he the “mentee”, because I have had more life experience, but I think that we really learn from each other all the time.  I am reminded of this constantly.

One thing that isn’t universal is local culture and ethnicity.  I am astounded at the differences in our cultures and thus, how our expectations are shaped.  I am humbled by thinking about the obstacles that Eli has overcome in the south (Louisiana); being Eli’s mentor has taught me not to assume anything or take anything for granted.

Because Eli and I are over 1,500 miles apart, almost all of our relationship has been developed by phone.  At first, it was a little daunting. Nobody just falls into a warm and trusting relationship on the first phone call!  We held regular phone calls at first and simply got to know each other- likes and dislikes, things that were important to each of us, things with which we each struggled….  We also began texting which was a remarkably fun way to get to know each other (“how did the exam go?”  “Did you get into the class you wanted?” “My new dog won’t go outside!”). Over time, and I can’t really remember when it was, Eli began to call when he needed advice, feedback, or just a friendly voice in his ear.  At the same time, I would see something in my life that was exactly what we had just talked about or that reminded me of him and I would pick up the phone.

I have learned, once again, to trust that relationships develop over time- one can’t “make” them happen- something that I think every new mentor needs to realize. 

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