I’ve been mentoring teenage girls since I was in my mid 20’s. At first it was girls from broken homes and no high school diploma and my job was simply to help them pass their GED’s and stay out of trouble. Later on, I graduated (along with some of my mentees), to college level students, some of whom were brilliant enough to start their own companies, even before graduating.

Mentoring young minds is one of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. My heart fills with joy and pride every time I see a sparkle in my girls’ eyes, a hint that they are willing to hustle, be curious, be inspired to be better and pay it forward.

For years, I thought that this feeling of joy was my reward as a mentor. Until the day someone asked a simple question: “What have you learned from your years as a mentor?”

That’s when I realized it: my mentees have been great mentors for me as well! The ones that I cherished the most are:

Positive Thinking

Some of these girls came from the worst possible backgrounds (broken homes, absent parents,  abuse, drugs, neglect) and yet, their young minds hold on to a positive attitude like a tree holds on to its branches. They know that every thought and every word create your present and future. If you are willing to change your thoughts, your life will change with it.

Rarely did I hear my girls use words like “I’ll try.” Instead, they use phrases like “how do I start?” or “tell me more.” They find a way to quiet the noise around them, keep the drama at bay and make daily choices with a positive intent, focusing on the solution to the problems and on the outcome, not on the problem itself.


Maybe it’s because they have a youthful spirit but these young women are the most enthusiastic people I have ever met! It is really hard to worry about what other people think when your heart is filled with that kind of fervor and happiness.

One of my sixteen year olds told me once that she never worries about what other people think because people are too worried about what others think about them, that they don’t have time to think about you! Talk about wisdom!

The Power Of Curiosity

Curiosity is very natural in children and young people but as we get older and a barrage of rules smothers our imagination and creativity, our curiosity dwindles. My mentees still have a thirst for knowledge because they know that never ending improvement is the key to reaching and exceeding their goals. This has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my girls.

When things aren’t easy, curiosity can lead to ideas that will help you find solutions when most people will see no way out. They have a burning desire to live a higher quality of life that is fueling their decisions on a regular basis.

Hard Work

No amount of positive thinking or enthusiasm can help you reach your goals without a serious amount of hustling and hard work. While at a young age, my girls might be temporarily blinded by the bells and whistles they see on magazines and social media, deep down they recognize that:

Success is directly attached to hard work. @JovankaCiares (Click to Tweet!)

They are not interested in being handed anything for free. They take pride in reaching a goal and knowing that their own efforts help them get there. That to me is the definition of character.

Jovanka Ciares is a tri-lingual wellness expert and nutrition coach based in New York City and Los Angeles. Jovanka’s approach to mind-body wellness has earned her thousands of fans the world over and regular slots on Fox News, NPR, CBS Radio, Telemundo, and The Huffington Post. In addition, she is the author of three books. You can find more on her website

Image courtesy of Denise Carbonell.