Mentoring Feature Focus: Maria Cortes-Graham

by | Apr 14, 2023 | General

Maria Cortes-Graham is a huge fan of  Momentum’s Mentoring Program. Maria first signed up to volunteer as a mentor in late 2021. When a match didn’t happen immediately, she checked in a few times to make sure we hadn’t forgotten her. At Momentum, we are very deliberate about our mentor matching. Sometimes the right mentee doesn’t come along right away. Maria was finally matched in early 2022 with Latia “Tia” Coleman. Both women agree that their instant, powerful connection was well worth the wait.

Mentoring Coordinator Mindy Santo, with Maria and Tia (photo Jacob Blakenship/Bham Now)

“The match was perfect, we connected so well from the beginning. An excellent ingredient for this type of relationship is humility, that goes both ways. The mentor has to be humble enough to accept others’ life stories and be okay knowing they don’t have all the answers. And the mentee needs to exhibit humility to show their vulnerabilities.”
–Maria Cortes-Graham

Maria never misses an opportunity to share her experience in our mentoring program. She always encourages friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to participate in the program and several have already signed up to mentor or request a mentor. Last year Maria and Tia were featured in a story Bham Now wrote about Momentum’s mentoring program. We experienced a 400% increase in the number of women requesting a mentor within a week! Clearly there’s a need, and we are so grateful to the hundreds of women, like Maria, who give their time and expertise to mentor another woman.

We’ve decided to highlight a few of our mentors and mentees in a series of posts called Feature Focus. Maria agreed to talk with our Mentoring Coordinator, Mindy Santo, about her mentoring experience:

Maria, I’m so excited you’ve agreed to talk to me about the program, and for agreeing to be our first Feature Focus! We appreciate you being an integral part of the Momentum Mentoring Program and want to talk to you about you, your experience with the program, your mentee, ALL the things!

Mindy: How did you hear about the Momentum Mentoring Program, what was it about our program that drew you in initially?

Maria: I found it online. I love the name — Momentum in Latin means driving force – that appeals to me. I have a Master’s degree in linguistics and have studied foreign languages. Words are important. I consider myself a driving force and feel like I have something to offer; somebody could benefit from my experience. The sponsors who support Momentum were also a factor that influenced my decision.

Mindy: Whenever we share a mentoring post, you’re often the first one to engage, we love that! What is it about our process that appeals to you?

Maria: Marketing is key, I know how much effort you put into it. I admire the program and want to engage on social media so it stays at the top of the results!

Mindy: When you encourage others to join Momentum’s mentor matching, what do you say to persuade them?

Maria: On your journey, when you look behind and notice others who also want to travel that journey, you want to help. Reach back, grab their hand. I know the women I have asked have something to contribute. It is an exchange of energy.

Mindy: I know you’ve worked all over the world. Have you found any programs similar to this one?

Maria: No, nothing!

Mindy: What mentoring experience have you participated in through your work? Do they have internal programs?

Maria: They do, but I don’t participate. The mentoring programs are more oriented to business skills. Momentum’s philosophy is more inline with my approach, integrating the professional and personal lives of women. I’m a mindset coach, my work is to help women align more with who they are and where they want to be.

Mindy: It was lovely to watch you and Tia click on all cylinders! What is your secret sauce?

Maria: Caring. I care for deeply for my mentees and they care for me. That energy comes full circle.

Mindy: How did you determine what tools and resources would be best to share with your mentee?

Maria: Based on Tia’s needs, and our conversations, I tuned in to determine what she needed. I also used my Coaching Toolkit skills to actively listen & ask the right questions.

Mindy: What have you learned about your mentee along the way?

Maria: Tia had all the ingredients but was not organized. I helped her to organize and then held her accountable. I helped her see that finding the perfect balance in life is impossible, but we can get really good at managing it. I provided direction, worked on her mindset, and offered support. She made commitments and followed through. On her short list of skills to develop were Community Involvement and Board Service. She integrated them into her plan and then executed. She is now serving on the board at Lovelady Center.

Mindy: On your journey, what has helped you reach your goals?

Maria: Discipline. Achievements are not effortless!


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