Support, Support, Support: Denise Hewitt accepts new Role with HEMI as a Community Engagement Specialist

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.

HEMI Community Engagement Specialist, Denise Hewitt.
  • 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.

A 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?

HEMI 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?

As 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?

It 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?

I 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 appreciated.

  • What methods have you found are best when communicating with mentors? Youth? & individuals you’ve encountered?

Currently, 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 misunderstandings. 

  • 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?

I 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 plan.

  • What do you believe is ideal for these youth in order to be as successful as possible? & instilling resilience despite the obstacles they face?

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 behalf.

  • 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.

Do you have a success story for the HEMI Hub? Please contact Kimberly Rhyan.

Next week’s blog will feature one of our HEMI Mentors!

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