Emily Nicholl decided to become a Women’s Education & Leadership Institute (WELI) Mentor in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down and forced the nation into SIP and Hartnell College students into virtual classrooms. Emily is a longtime employee of Monterey County Social Services, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She spent over 15 years working in child welfare and, since 2016, has worked with Aging and Adult Services overseeing the In-Home Supportive Services program for low-income older adults and people with disabilities. Emily has also been a long-time supporter of Hartnell College. Not only is she a huge fan of the Western Stage and the incredible new STEM center, but Emily is also a member of the Legacy Society and has designated Hartnell College as a beneficiary in her estate plans. She truly believes in the impact of Hartnell College in our community. With the rising cost of college education, Emily believes that community college is the clear choice towards an affordable, quality education. “Hartnell serves a lot of first-generation college students, a very diverse student body, and supports the ag community by educating and training people for higher level jobs in agriculture,” says Emily. When asked why she decided to become a mentor for WELI, Emily said, “I was the beneficiary of great support throughout my education – my Dad was a college professor, I always had emotional and financial assistance. And I know that so many students do not have that type of support in their lives. That’s why the WELI program at Hartnell College is so important. WELI gave me the chance to make a huge impact in women’s lives, both through my donations and my time volunteering as a mentor.” Joining the ranks of incredible women community leaders was another highlight of becoming a WELI Mentor, said Emily. “The first day when the WELI scholars came together to listen to the panel of mentors, even the mentors were inspired by each other. It was such an incredible group of women.” Emily mentored two students in 2020. As is the case with so many WELI scholars, both struggled with a lack of emotional support from their families, both had incarcerated parents, one student lost a parent her first semester and the other was being pressured to drop out of school and stay home as a caregiver. Throughout their mentoring time together, both scholars were able to lean on each other even as they looked to Emily for her guidance and professional expertise in navigating school and life. After the pandemic hit, Emily continued to support her mentees through texting and Zoom. They discussed the benefits of informational interviews and possible career paths as well as the incredible challenges of transitioning to online learning and balancing school and life demands. At the end of the Spring semester, one of Emily’s mentees sent her a photo of a painting she had created to represent the sense of joy that WELI brought to her life.