Mentoring 365 Project: Gaining a New Perspective

August 12, 2015

“Some of the most important factors in promoting youth development are clear boundaries and expectations, constant optimism and showing up and being consistent. I think everything else builds on those three.”


Christina Saunders, Executive Director, ACES

Christina Saunders is the recently named Executive Director of Athletes Committed to Educating Students (ACES). ACES (a Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota Expert Partner program) supports students most at risk of falling behind in fourth through eighth grade by providing them with after-school programming. Interactions between the highly trained ACES staff and their students create a consistent and important impact on the lives and development of the program’s youth. Christina’s passion for mentoring, youth development, and social impact come not only from an inherited belief from her parents regarding the importance of community involvement, but also her personal experiences studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and as a teacher in the South Bronx.

Christina is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where she studied Public Policy and Law, with the intention of going on to be a Human Rights Lawyer. While at Trinity, she had the opportunity to study in Cape Town. While abroad, Christina gained a different perspective on life which proved to be beneficial in strengthening her dedication to community and youth development. Building on her dedication to community service, Christina accepted a position as a New York City Teaching Fellow after graduation. She worked in the South Bronx, a predominantly Dominican and Puerto Rican borough. During her two-year fellowship she taught students from diverse backgrounds and gained a mentor of her own who helped her to adjust to her new position. She describes how she benefited from the caring words of a fellow teacher after she encountered difficult situations in the classroom.

Through the experiences of her fellowship, Christina gained a new and invaluable perspective on how best to support and prepare youth to succeed academically and promote their healthy development. Similarly, ACES’ staff and mentors are prepared to be very intentional in ensuring every interaction with a youth promotes a positive relationship and consistent growth.

Christina’s dedication for youth development and combating the achievement gap have helped strengthen her expectations for establishing and maintaining quality mentoring relationships for ACES’ youth. Through her leadership of ACES and its commitment to constructing a healthy learning environment for youth, she will surely have a positive impact on the mentoring community.