Former Forman Scholar Mariah Pierce says it’s a lifelong process of giving and receiving. Her exemplary leadership has been passed down to her by her own mentor, Patricia Braxton, whose strategy she uses with her mentees.
Recently graduated from Rutgers University, Mariah Pierce is now doing her part as a mentor to three current Rutgers students and Forman Scholars, Arianna Lapp, Katie Ridgway and Tariq Justice. Pierce stands out from your typical mentor—not only does she offer insight and advice, she has a genuine relationship with each of her mentees which she says is the key to strong mentorship.
“One of my strengths is that I’m a relater, I like creating deep connections with people,” Mariah said. “I like talking to and helping people. I’ve found that by building up these conversations with my mentees, they’ve opened up to me since we’ve established that trust and respect.”
She says her strategy today is based off of her own experience with her personal mentor, Patricia. The pair met at church and bonded over their mutual want to help others—the two even share a birthday. In her younger years, Mariah participated in the Empowering and Mentoring Minority Youth program and the Salem County Young Promising Engineers program, both of which Patricia helped establish. Patricia’s casual and genuine approach is carried on by Mariah, who caters to her mentees’ needs by encouraging the students to ask her questions during their weekly conversations and reach out for help whenever necessary.
To Mariah, it's all about maintaining a balance. There’s a fine line between telling someone what to do and guiding someone on the right path, she says. Mariah counsels her peers through the challenges that come with college life, but ultimately, whether they act on her advice is their choice.
When Tariq needed to find an elective course for his schedule, Mariah found a sports management elective she thought he might enjoy. Today, the duo is honing in on Tariq’s aspirations post-graduation, and working to discover if sports management is the path for him. For Katie, Mariah has offered resources to help her make more informed decisions, such as the Rutgers Learning Center. She also plans on helping Katie arrange the summer courses she will be taking at Salem Community College.
Looking back on her own academic challenges during her undergraduate days, Mariah relates to her mentees on a much more personal level than a parent or school counselor can. With the guidance of her own mentor, Mariah made the decision to switch majors from engineering to public health. Though she won’t try to convince them to make a life-altering decision, she is there to act as a sounding board for any life choices they want input on. She is there to celebrate in their success and help them through their stumbles.
Upon meeting Arianna, she gifted her a Rutgers business card holder to show her the importance of commitment from start to finish. As a mentor, Mariah says that once she’s invested in someone, she is in it for the long haul. Already, she can’t wait to see all three of her mentees walk across the stage at Rutgers graduation, diploma in hand.
“The feeling is indescribable, a feeling that warms my heart to the fullest extent,” Mariah said. “I look forward to being at all of their graduations with open arms.”