At HEMI, we seek to provide long-term
mentoring relationships that help prepare our youth for post-secondary
education and training. This mission would be impossible without our amazing
mentors. I recently had the chance to interview Claire Wagner about her
experience as a mentor.
Clair Wagner is the Director of University
News and Communications at Miami University. She lives in Colerain Township and
is the mother of two sons. She is the mentor of Darionna Daniels, a senior at
Colerain High School. They have been paired together for about a year and a
Claire’s husband Chris, Darionna’s sister, Diamond, Darionna, and Clair at Kings Island.
Claire become a mentor after seeing an article
about HEMI published in her local newspaper. She had been very involved in her
two son’s education and life, and now that they are grown up and out of the
house, she realized that she could still be involved in someone else’s life.
She is currently assisting Darionna in her
search for college. Darionna is currently involved in a Cosmetology program and
is looking to pursue business programs. Claire has been involved by taking
Darionna on college visits and helping with FAFSA and other college processes.
She is also teaching Darionna to crochet in their spare time.
“All you need is time and stability.”
Claire Wagner, HEMI Mentor
What lessons have you learned as a mentor?
“I always thought I wasn’t a judgy kind of
person, but becoming a friend of a foster youth, I really learned not to judge
others. I learned a lot about how to listen to and understand other people’s
experiences.” Clair’s experiences helped her grow as a professional and an
individual by allowing her to become a more compassionate person.
What advice do you have for other mentors?
“The HEMI trainings are very valuable, try not
to miss any. The experience of being a mentor is very rewarding and is not that
much time. All it is, is a commitment to another human being. All you need is
time and stability. It really is an eyeopener, committing to one individual
makes a huge difference.”
What is your favorite moment with your mentee?
“Making her laugh.” Clair is also able to work
with Darionna on her school work and being able to see “the lightbulb go off
when she finally understands” is something that Claire always looks forward to.
Claire and Darionna during Juneteenth 2018.
Next Week’s Success Story will Feature HEMI’s Mentor Retreat!
This fall, HEMI re-welcomed Denise Hewitt to the team for a new and exciting role with the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative. She will be developing partnerships, recruiting mentors and more. Recently, one of HEMI’s student workers, Makaylah Moll interviewed Denise about her life and new role. Take a few minutes and learn about her passion and purpose with HEMI.
Please provide a biography that really expresses to our mentors and partners who you are as a person and how you started here at HEMI.
native Cincinnatian, I was placed in foster care at birth and blessed to be
adopted by a beautiful family while still in infancy. My school years started at St. Simon
Elementary in Lincoln Heights, followed by North Avondale Elementary, Walnut
Hills High School and Xavier University, undergrad and graduate school. I spent my career in Cincinnati Public
Schools as an elementary teacher, counselor, consulting teacher and
Professional Issues Representative with the Cincinnati Federation of
Teachers. Since retiring, my work has
remained focused in education.
What does HEMI mean to you?
has personal meaning to me, having been in foster care myself. While I was too young to remember the
experience, I continue to have empathy for those that desire to know and
understand their past and how it influences and shapes their future.
What are the responsibilities you possess in this role?
the HEMI Community Engagement Specialist, I am responsible for developing
strategies and marketing to recruit mentors, host community information
sessions and facilitate the Mentor Onboarding process and trainings.
What do you have the most interest in, or feel is
considerably important that you’ve been working on recently?
has been said that HEMI is one of the best-kept secrets in Cincinnati and
beyond. The opportunity to introduce
HEMI and the work we do to the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond is very
important right now. Meeting with
various organizations, community and civic groups, public employees, school and
career-based staffs and other agencies that work with our students or may work
with them as a mentor has been extremely enlightening and rewarding.
What would you tweak or change for the environment you’re
exposed to and involved in, if you could?
would like to see more opportunities to meet with all those involved with the
youth to better address needs that arise.
I continue to explore ways to support our mentors as they support our
youth. Mentors spend an incredible amount
of time and resources and I want to make sure they know how much they are
What methods have you found are best when communicating with
mentors? Youth? & individuals you’ve encountered?
one would think everyone would be fully engaged in social media, etc. That is not necessarily the case. Of course, there are times when mass email is
necessary as it reaches all in a short period and is easily accessible. However, I have found that many of our
mentors and youth enjoy face-to face interactions or phone conversations. This helps clarify any miscommunications or
What things do you believe are key to forming, as well as
maintaining a good relationship & trust between the youth we encounter
& the mentors we pair them with?
think acceptance of and respect for where the youth are, where they have been
and what they have experienced is key to forming and maintaining a healthy
relationship. The mentor cannot change
any of those experiences, feelings or beliefs yet can be instrumental in
helping them process what has happened and make a plan for the future. The youths’ experiences do not define who
they can become. Youth must respect the
fact that mentors do not have those same experiences but can empathize with
them, share their own experiences and help them create and navigate a life
What do you believe is ideal for these youth in order to be
as successful as possible? & instilling resilience despite the obstacles
Opportunities. If our youth have a significant adult/mentor
in their lives and are provided opportunities to heal, overcome, grow and move
forward, they will be successful. The
resilience I have seen with our youth has been so overwhelming. It inspires me to do all I can on their
What can we expect from you in relation to HEMI mentors &
the youth in this position?
Support, support, support. Relationships under normal circumstances can be challenging. Helping a mentor and mentee navigate those bumps in the road is key to maintaining a successful, productive, long-term relationship. Our HEMI staff does a phenomenal job managing that.