The weather here in Indianapolis seems to have finally taken a turn towards winter, which means that our time at Broad Ripple is coming to an end for the semester. All of these weeks have culminated in pages and pages of brand new stories, poems, skits, and songs. More than that, though, there has blossomed a sense of camaraderie between students and mentors. It’s hard to know when the shift happened because, like most shifts, it did not happen all at once. Every day that a student told a mentor about themselves or a mentor helped a student shape a story about a bank robbery, there was something else that pushed us all towards a greater sense of appreciation for one another.

Now, I can tell you first-hand that some days were incredibly challenging. Engaging young adults can be taxing on both mentor and mentee, but the results of those struggles have been so varied and rewarding. Comparing students I had on that first day where we were all so nervous and unwilling to share more than a handful of sentences to those same students I have now that have let me peek inside their breathtakingly creative minds.

These students amaze me every day with their talents, which can range from singing to chemistry and everything in between. A lot of these students are further along in writing than I was when I was their age. Their minds go to mysterious places, responding to our prompts or to their own thoughts. A lot of times I wonder if they need us there. But when they share their innermost feelings with us, I know that we are a necessary part of their days. It makes me proud that I could be a part of this. It makes me proud that I could watch a student’s work transform in a few short months. It makes me proud that I could work with such an incredible group of mentors who have certainly helped me be a better mentor myself.

Through the winter and the spring and long after I and those students have graduated into another chapter of our lives, I will always and forever remember those moments where my students took me on a journey to new and distant lands full of promise. And for that, I will be forever thankful.

Bailey Merlin is a graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program