Mentoring is a big part of Morgan Holen’s life. Not only does she credit her success to mentors throughout her life, but she’s also a proud mentor herself, advocate, and longtime supporter of the mentoring movement. In her role as Miss Nebraska, Morgan has focused her social impact initiative on the power of strengths-based mentoring. She has worked alongside MENTOR Nebraska for the past two years to elevate mentoring across the state, recruit volunteers to mentor young people, and advocate for mentoring on the local, state, and national levels.
We sat down with Morgan to learn more about her mentoring story and why mentoring is important to her...
What’s your story?
“At the age of five, I met my first mentor Miss Kitty. She was my 80-year-old dance teacher who could touch her toes and do a headstand. Her teaching style combined the perfect amount of discipline and compassion. It is because of her that I initially developed a love for mentoring and investing in others. During my freshman year of college, I was invited to interview for a program at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln called NHRI Leadership Mentoring. The hour-long interview is an evaluation of the individual’s leadership and ability to form positive relationships. The memory of Miss Kitty inspired me to accept the role of Leadership Mentor and pass on her life lessons with my mentee Claire, a 7th-grade firecracker full of spunk, personality and wisdom.”
Why is mentoring important to you?
“Mentoring is important because it is investing in the next generation. I know I would not be where I am today without the many mentors along the way. They inspired me to dream bigger, work hard and set goals. I am blessed to have had adults who believed in me, but I know 1 in 3 students will never be able to say the same. When someone has a caring, consistent adult in their life, it can influence how they succeed academically, in extracurriculars and in the community. I truly believe mentoring is the most important work in the world.”
What have you learned from being a mentor?
“As I began my relationship with my mentee Claire, my priority was to build trust through actively listening and showing her how much I cared. As our relationship progressed, trust became more evident. I will also never forget the moment I was with Claire at lunch and one of her friends asked who I was. Just as I was about to open my mouth to explain NHRI, Claire touched my shoulder and said, “I’ve got this Morgan, I talk about you all the time.” Then she said, “Morgan is like my big sister.” That moment sums up the emotions and investment I feel in this relationship. Claire teaches me to empathize daily, think creatively, and love deeper. I am in awe of the individual progressions Claire has made but building trust with her was and is my ultimate goal. This isn’t just a relationship I have to be part of, it is a young woman’s life that I get to be a part of.
This passion drives me to build more strengths-based mentoring programs in schools and recruit more mentors. The positive impact one can have on the next generation and the things that they can give you in return are simply priceless.”
How can people get involved in mentoring?
“People typically say the reason they cannot become a mentor is because they do not feel qualified or they do not have time. Mentoring does not require a certain level of education, amount of money or social status. The mentor simply needs to show up and be there for the mentee. By simply living a longer life than the mentees, mentors have wisdom, guidance and experience to share. Everyone is qualified. Some may say they do not have the time to mentor. Many of the mentoring programs only require a weekly meeting. The meetings can be done over a lunch break or when it fits best into a schedule. The mentorship can even be done through Zoom as we have learned this past year. Even the busiest of schedules can make time to invest in the next generation. MENTOR Nebraska provides a search engine where you can find the program that suits your strengths and interests. Visit MENTORNebraska.org to find the organization that is the perfect fit for you.”
Morgan will be representing Nebraska at the 100th Anniversary Miss America Competition on December 16, 2021. The event will be streamed live on Peacock TV at 7 p.m. CT.