Letter From A Mentor

This is a story about the power of mentoring, and a letter from a mentor to her student.

Carolyn and Jeniffer

At the recent ABCN Leadership Dinner we had organised for some mentors and students, past and present, to share their stories. One of the mentors, Carolyn Ralph, from KPMG, unfortunately fell ill on the day of the event. She was to share her story about mentoring Jennifer Truong. The pair met when Jennifer, a Yr 10 student at Cabramatta High School at the time, was awarded an ABCN Foundation Scholarship, and Carolyn was chosen as her mentor.

Eight years on, that relationship continues to grow, and the mentoring experience has had a powerful impact on both their lives. Jennifer is now a high school teacher, a career she loves, and spoke passionately at the Leadership Dinner about what she had learnt from Carolyn and about how their relationship has grown over time.

When Carolyn couldn’t attend the event on the night, she wrote Jennifer a letter, and ABCN’s Foundation Manager, Samantha Luck, took to the stage to read it on Carolyn’s behalf.

The letter left such a strong impression on the audience, and on Jennifer, that we wanted to share it with you. Thanks to Carolyn Ralph who has kindly given us permission to reprint it here.


Dear Jennifer,

Your prize winnings included me, but really I was the winner. 

We met when you were still a teenager, but I am the one who is richer from knowing you.

While a little shy when we met on campus at Cabramatta High, all those years ago, you always had depth and maturity.  You took me on a tour of the school and we bonded over our mutual love of trashy tv shows.

I remember our first few mentoring sessions were, necessarily, school-work focused.  In sharing what assignments you were researching we got to know each other a little more and shared some inner secrets about ourselves.  Mine was probably as deep as sharing that the dude in Hawaii-FiveO was my favourite celebrity!

Many years later and, Jennifer, I have seen you come into your own. 

  • Your abundance of compassion makes you a dear and trusted friend, to me and others. 
  • Your strong sense of conviction makes you a focused leader.
  • Your worldly appreciation makes you a joy to debate with and learn from.
  • Your immense heart makes you a loving and thoughtful woman.
  • Your drive to contribute selflessly to society makes you the most incredible teacher of Australia’s youth – our future.

I’ve learned a lot from you.  Not only have we tried a lot of different cultures and food (we aim to try different countries/cultures cuisines when we catch up), we also stretch ourselves with new debates and knowledge.  Mostly what I have learned is:

  • Depth doesn’t come with age. 
  • Fairness doesn’t get given out easily but you can adopt it as a mindset and live it yourself. 
  • Believe in yourself and give it a crack.  Age nor entitlement is an excuse.
  • And quite frankly, I’ve learned that nothing is better than Banoffee Pie for dessert.

If others ask you, I wonder what advice would you give about a mentoring relationship? I know I would unequivocally recommend it to others.  I would suggest:

  • Find common ground early. 
  • Don’t be someone you are not – part of the gift you share is the gift of YOU. 
  • Be open to learning from your mentee – as humbling as it might be to realize we are not perfect, let’s face it, we aren’t, and there are valuable lessons from everyone.

Jennifer, you are an incredible woman and more than a mentee to me.  You are my friend.  A lifelong friend. 

Love Carolyn

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