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Friendship and Family Describe This Special Mentor/Mentee Partnership

September 2021
  • From left: Mentee Ben Maiga and Mentor Lydia Buckley.
    From left: Mentee Ben Maiga and Mentor Lydia Buckley.

Imagine being thousands of miles from your home, in a country where you don’t speak the language and a place where you know almost no one.  Then imagine taking a leap of faith and enrolling in college classes to earn your degree to set yourself on a path to a better future.

Quinsigamond Community College student Ben Maiga is a native French speaker, who today is a second year student majoring in sociology. During his first year at QCC, the language barrier sometimes proved difficult, and when people spoke too fast he missed some of the words that were said. Then, after his first year, he met Lydia Buckley through QCC’s Mentoring Program, after receiving an email saying there was someone who could help him with his academics.

“I met an angel,” he said.

Today the two have become much more than mentor and mentee...they have become close friends and in Mr. Maiga’s eyes, Ms. Buckley is family now.

“She was there any time I needed her, when I texted her or when I called her. Now I can say my mentor is my best friend... my everything,” Mr. Maiga continued.

Lydia Buckley is a QCC adjunct faculty, who teaches French and ESL. An email from QCC’s Director of Mentoring, Gabe Santner, looking for mentors to take part in QCC’s mentoring program spurred her to answer that call for mentors. It was perfect timing for Ms. Buckley.

“I was going through a period in my life where people were giving a lot to me and I wanted to give back,” Ms. Buckley said.

She reached out to Mr. Santner and told him if possible, she would like to be paired with a French-speaking student, which was how she came to be paired with Mr. Maiga. They had their first meeting during the pandemic, speaking first through email, phone and Zoom; sharing information about themselves.

The two had an instant connection, which helped Mr. Maiga to master English. Ms. Buckley also supports him with his homework and overall studies. Yet, the relationship was far from one-sided and Ms. Buckley said she has gained as much from the experience as Mr. Maiga.

“Ben is such a kind human. He reminds me that is what we are all here for...we are all family,” she said.

Mr. Maiga said the mentoring program and his relationship with his mentor has made a positive difference is his academic and his personal life. Ms. Buckley said she has heard students in her ESL classes discussing how they don’t always feel connected to the college due to a language and culture barrier, and feels the mentoring program can help bridge that gap.

“They don’t feel they connect as easily, except within their classes. With Ben (as an example) and having that mentorship relationship, I feel like it is a way to reach students who many feel isolated,” she said.

One of the ways in which the mentorship assisted Mr. Maiga was by having Ms. Buckley as a local connection. She was able to be a local reference for him when he needed one. This can often be difficult for someone who has come from another country and may not know anyone in the States.

While this is Mr. Maiga's second year at QCC, they both feel they will stay friends even after he has completed his studies at the college.

“Once Ben is done here and his career starts, I think we will still be in touch,” she said.

Ms. Buckley was quick to note that while mentees get a lot out of the program, the mentors get just as much from it.

“You definitely get so much more out of it than you are anticipating. You think you’re doing the good thing, but you get so much good out of having a mentee. My life is improved for knowing Ben.”

QCC Mentoring continues to match approximately 150 students annually with mentors.  In the upcoming academic year, the goal is to continue to grow the program and serve up to 200 students. 

To learn more about this incredible program, visit QCC Mentoring.