Big Thoughts

Cooking Up the Possibilities, featuring our 2021 Scholarship Award Recipient Jahte’yra

We are excited to share an update on Jahte’yra, one of our 2021 Think Big Scholarship Award recipients.  Nineteen-year-old Jahte’yra is pursuing a career in the culinary arts and has been accepted into Johnson and Whales University.  She is currently enrolled in classes at St. Petersburg College until she has the finances and resources to transfer to her dream school. Making this kind of transition after high school is not easy!  Of course, Jahte’yra’s hope was to figure it all out right away and head off to school.  But sometimes life has different plans.

Think Big paired Jahte’yra with a mentor in our program, a successful local chef, to share experiences, make a connection and provide the support she needed at exactly the right time.  Mary Ellen Frank, also known as Mel, was eager to accept the opportunity to be a part of Jahte’yra’s journey. Mel was accepted into Johnson and Whales University after high school but started her education at a small local college to lessen the financial undertaking of four years at such a prestigious school.

The Think Big Mentoring program strives to pair our students with a mentor in their career field at every opportunity possible.  Mel shares, “It’s been fascinating. I’m happy to get the opportunity to help my mentee navigate the sometimes-overwhelming transition from high school to college. I was surprised to hear how my story resonated so much with the mentee I was paired with. Almost like fate.”

“From the moment I met with Mel, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree,” says Jahte’yra. The amazing feeling of new opportunities and great doors opening. She is an amazing person inside and out with a similar path and many obstacles like mine. Hearing her story gave me hope and peace of mind that my journey isn’t over yet and that it’s only just the beginning. My story is yet to be finished, but great connections come with many blessings.”

When asked why Mel wanted to become a mentor with Think Big for Kids, she replied, “I wish I had someone with a similar path as me to reach out to when I was Jahte’rya’s age. Life throws you so many obstacles, but in the end, it leads you to where you’re meant to be. It’s hard to see that when you’re young and fresh out of high school, unsure of what career to commit to or how to achieve it. I hope to give her the chance to reach her goals and give her any support she needs to succeed. I want to be that confidant that she can go to with anything.”

Mentorship is incredibly impactful in a young person’s journey. We know how critical it is to empower youth to reach heights they never knew were possible through our Think Big Mentoring Program. We will keep you posted on Jahte’yra’s school journey and reaching her goals of becoming a chef!

If you are interested becoming a part of a student’s journey, please click here to get involved. You could be the determining factor in a teen’s life that could change their entire path like Mel is providing for Jahte’yra.

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