Devoting your life to public service can teach you a lot about people. Just ask Samantha Drivas, who has been a mentor to younger children since she was in middle school. “I think my biggest trick is relating everything to pizza. Anything can be pizza, and they will totally grab onto it. I want ten boxes times ten pizzas, that’s 100 pizzas in boxes. That’s the real secret to mentoring. Pizzas in boxes.”

Samantha, who has made public service a key feature of her day-to-day life, has recently signed on to be a Community Ambassador for Boston Partners in Education. The Community Ambassador is a new role for the organization. Boston Partners trains some of our most supportive volunteers and gives them the resources and know-how to promote mentoring and recruit new volunteers for Boston Public Schools students. We reached out to Samantha because we knew that her commitment to public service extended beyond the classroom.

Drawing from her personal experience has helped Samantha become a better mentor to her students. As a bilingual speaker, Samantha felt she was well-suited to assist many of the students who were learning English as a second language.

“In terms of math, they were actually getting the answers right most of the time. It was just the standardized testing that was messing with them, because they knew the answer in Spanish or Italian, but not how to get from there to English. I speak French, so I could relate to them. I understood where they were coming from.”

One of the students that Samantha mentors at the Eliot School in the North End is Gracie. “She’s very far ahead in terms of reading and writing — she does a great job articulating herself. I think she’s very smart. But, I think she just needs a lot of help when it comes to getting math down,” explains Samantha.

Gracie is quiet and shy, the youngest in her family, but she has become close with Samantha during their sessions. This is evident in the way that Gracie looks up at Samantha during their mentoring sessions, but also in the way she responds to feedback. “Ah, the first guess of the day!” Samantha exclaims as Gracie moves too quickly through a math problem. Gracie giggles before Samantha gets her to talk through the process of the problem – proving to Gracie that she was capable at arriving at the right answer after all.

“Getting them to explain their thinking habits is a huge thing. You’ll see fingers counting under tables for multiplication, but you have to actually ask ‘what are you doing over there? Can you tell me?’. You get them to articulate the way they are thinking, and then a lot of the times they realize there is a flaw in their thought process,” says Samantha.

Though helping Gracie advance in her schoolwork is the primary goal of the partnership, Samantha feels that she gains a lot as a volunteer too. “I think giving back is probably more for me than anyone else, as selfish as that sounds. You leave there and you’re like, ‘Yeah I did such a good thing today and I feel so accomplished!’ It’s just nice to do things that have direct effects.” In fact, Samantha’s willingness to take on the role of Community Ambassador is directly affected by her role in the Rotary Club through which she performs so much of her service.

Samantha also volunteers regularly at the St. Francis House, the Red Cross Food Pantry, and Cradles to Crayons. But she puts in some extra work as a Community Ambassador with Boston Partners, because she believes it offers a very local and incredibly positive experience for everyone who gets involved. In her first few months as a Community Ambassador, she’s already recruited two volunteers to mentor students in BPS.

It’s easy for Samantha to argue the case, because she has been a passionate promoter in community involvement her whole life. For Boston Partners in particular, she finds herself pitching the program to people that she meets all around Boston. “People say, ‘I hate the city, you know, the city’s so sad, everyone is so mean, no one talks to each other.’ Boston can be an unfriendly city, we all know that. We’re sad, it’s snowing! So once people make that comment, I say, well, why don’t you try volunteering? You’ll see some smiling faces!”

Boston Partners has the privilege of encountering many individuals who are willing to put their time and effort towards the goal of helping students. We commend Samantha for her consistent efforts to help others from all walks of life, and we hope that her position as Community Ambassador allows her to inspire new mentors as it has inspired us.

For more information about how to become a Community Ambassador, please contact Sue Li, [email protected]