Who's Who at Her Honor: Team Vera/Valdes & Escorcia

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As a mainframe application developer and support analyst, first-time mentor Merlina Escorcia spends her days talking in Java and Python — languages crucial to her job writing code for IBM. Yet, despite speaking in ways understood by few, Merlina also deeply understands the power of communication. “Having the opportunity to talk to someone who has been through something that you are going through allows you to prepare yourself to face the unfamiliar,” she writes.

Five years ago, in October 2013, Merlina was herself facing something rather unfamiliar. As a senior at Mount Vernon High School, she was beginning her journey as a Her Honor mentee. During her HHM experience, Merlina was paired with Renee Fleuranges-Valdes, a Business Development Executive at IBM.

Renee, who has been mentoring with Her Honor consecutively since 2011, says that the value of mentorship for her is watching mentees blossom over the course of the year, “Every year, I am amazed at the transformation that I see from the girl I meet in October, to the young woman who graduates in June.”

Fortunately, Renee has had the opportunity to continue watching Merlina blossom. Through opportunities made possible, in part, through her HHM experience, Merlina earned her Bachelor’s of Science and is now a full-time employee at IBM.

This year, Renee and Merlina are partnering in a new way: as a mentoring duo for Alondra Vera, a current Mount Vernon High School senior interested in pursuing a career in STEM.

As we enter our twelfth year of programming, Merlina is one of a new and growing cohort of Her Honor mentors: those who have experienced Her Honor as mentees themselves. These powerful young professionals are stepping up and sharing their experiences and insights with a new generation of young women.

“A mentor offers a source of valuable information that the mentee can use throughout their life,” Merlina shares, “The lessons, connections, and opportunities that mentors provide are invaluable.”

Alondra, who is beginning her placement, is excited to face all the unfamiliars that IBM has to offer her. “One personal attribute that makes me unique is my ability to try new things,” she writes. “A lot of times, people have their mind set on a current career field, but in my case, I have grown to enjoy experiencing and exploring new ideas. Being given the opportunity to try and even learn about a new skill that might just put me at an advantage in the future is awesome.”

Renee and Merlina, who have each navigated their own journey into STEM careers (a field primarily dominated by men), will be there with Alondra to share their triumphs, challenges, and lessons learned along the way. “Now more than ever, women need to uplift and support each other in every aspect, so that we can further progress our society,” Merlina writes. “Never give up. Never believe that a glass ceiling exists on top of you. Be confident in yourself and be the best version of you every single day.”

Now that’s a language that we all can understand.