Reflections on mentorship of city’s Democratic candidate for mayor

Posted 10/26/23

I didn't believe mentors really existed until I met Cherelle Parker.

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Reflections on mentorship of city’s Democratic candidate for mayor


I didn't believe mentors really existed until I met Cherelle Parker.

When colleagues of mine used to casually refer to their many mentors, I’d listen to their stories with the skepticism of someone hearing the tale of a Big Foot sighting. I’d raise a disbelieving eyebrow and assume they mistook a more experienced and somewhat helpful co-worker for the mythological “mentor.”  How was it possible that there was a thriving population of impactful people roaming the cities of North America - inspiring and helping random strangers navigate life’s journey -  and I never caught so much as a glimpse of one?  

But in 2017, I became a believer.

I was 29 and had a newly discovered calling to love and serve my community.  Looking to get tips on organizing and finding like-minded people, I attended a civic engagement seminar for women that turned out to be the best $80 I ever spent. One of the day's panelists was then-Councilmember - and hopefully our next mayor - Cherelle Parker. 

I’d heard her name a few times back in 2014 when the $2 per pack cigarette tax she championed help close the gap in the school district’s infamous “doomsday budget.”  That budget was the single catalytic event that changed the entire course of my life and made me examine how I contribute to my city. Naturally, I wanted to hear what she had to say. 

She talked about making a positive impact, finding your purpose and doing meaningful work. She said, “stay committed to your path and trust that you’ll find the right people.”  She spoke in my language, and from my seat in the back of the crowded room, I was certain that she was talking directly to me. I contacted her after the seminar, and since then she has shown me the power of mentorship.

We bonded in part because we both care deeply about this city. I remember my boyfriend at the time dismissively saying "It's her job to care." But I knew her commitment to service had nothing to do with a job - it was her life’s work. I’d never met anyone with such a clear purpose for their life - one that centered on improving my community. 

 The conviction with which she discussed, in casual conversation, the need for safer neighborhoods, empowered communities, access to economic opportunity and quality of life improvements resonated with me. But the fact that she used each day to drive those changes - inspired me.  

At nearly 30 years old, I was embarrassed to admit that I looked up to someone, but how could I not be moved?  In simply seeing her walk her path I knew that finding my own path of service - whatever it might look like - was possible. And that’s what great mentors do.  Through finding their own light and living a purposeful life, they illuminate the path for others and inspire us to expand our vision of who we can become.

Parker gave me hope. Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.”But when we’re unclear on the direction and uncertainty creeps in, having someone who both understands and supports your vision is priceless.  Cherelle Parker was that person for me.  She gave me time that she didn’t have and the encouragement I needed, encouraging me to “give birth to what is in your heart, mind and spirit.” She showed me that hope is not an option, but a responsibility we have to each other and to our community and we give that hope through our commitment to do the hard work to make it better.  She said, “never leave the people and the people will never leave you.” When I thought of abandoning this city for a house in the suburbs, her example of consistent commitment to Philadelphia and unflinching belief in its potential was a major factor in my decision to stay. 

But more than anything, she showed me that our greatest strength is our humanity; the ability to see ourselves in other people and feel connected to their dreams, hopes and struggles. By extending herself to me, not simply as a politician, but as a person, she changed my life.  That’s the power of mentorship It's the power we all have to change a life, change our communities, and change this city.

by Jasmine Schley

Mt. Airy