Mentors can make a big difference – for teens and adults – especially those who you feel you can relate to in some way. Maybe they grew up in the same neighborhood you did, went to the same school, speak some of the same slang, experienced some of the same issues, or just know what it’s like to grow up girl and genuinely want to help someone else not have it as rough as they did. This is what homegirls do & we salute them.

Mentor Maneke Snowden | Photo credit: The News & Observer
Mentor Maneke Snowden | Photo credit: The News & Observer

Meet homegirl mentor Maneke Snowden.  Maneke grew up tough – her mom was in prison and her dad wasn’t around, so she bounced around a lot as a child. She had a son in 11th grade but still managed to graduate on time, working nights even living in her car and moving around to hotels and friends houses. Determined to make a better life for herself and her son, she earned a computer technician certification and continued to work her way up in the field, making her way to Sprint where she currently works as a project manager.

Now married with 3 children, Maneke mentors teen girls & boys in Raleigh, NC, and doesn’t shy away from sharing her own story with them to show she understands struggle and as proof that you can make it through anything you may consider a setback. Volunteering with the Clarence E. Lightner Y Achievers Program at the local YMCA, Maneke helps lead an empowerment group for teen  girls and meets separately with the boys.

The program teaches teens leadership, community service, and prepares young people for lives as adults – college prep and career training. Maneke  encourages teens who want to go to college to try, even if they feel discouraged, saying

“there’s still a college for you even if you’re not a 4.0 student.”

With the girls, she creates a safe space where they can come talk about issues that matter to them without judgement, ask questions and be themselves. “They peel back layers of themselves they didn’t realize they had. We pull out leadership in them they didn’t necessarily know they had,” she said. And in doing so, helps build up their confidence.

“You can do what you want to do – that’s not just talk.”

She even uses her technical skills to coach a robotics team. Recognizing her good work and , Maneke was recently named volunteer of the year and profiled in the local paper as “Tar Heel of the Week.” She’s come a long way and she is herself still growing & learning – currently taking classes at William Peace University so that she can eventually earn her bachelor’s degree. “I’ll get there. It might be a couple of years, but I’ll get there.”

Maneke did have a mentor in her life growing up, so she gives to others because she can, because she genuinely enjoys it and because she gets something back in return,

“Any time you help others, it gives something back to you. While I feel I’m giving, I’m also receiving.”