Written by Heawon Hake, the founder of Suffolk L.I. Mentor & Mentee (M&M)
Opening up an organization to help young adults has been a dream of mine since I attended college in South Korea in 1982. I went to one of the best colleges in the area and it was very likely that I would be guaranteed a job and a marriage into an established family upon graduation. Despite this, I wasn’t happy. I was unsettled by the strong inequality between men and women that I had witnessed and experienced my entire life. Even with a college degree, I was not going to have the equality I had always longed for. I felt a sense of immense cultural oppression, and I wanted to find a way out.
During this time in my life, I frequently thought how nice it would have been if I had an older and wiser person that I could confide in. One day after talking to my best friend, I realized that she was seeking the same support and advice I was desperate for. We decided that after graduation we would open up an establishment where young kids like us could find support, advice, friendship, and guidance. This was how our dream came to life.
After graduation, I came to the United States to find my freedom. Similar to many other immigrants, I could not understand a single word of English in my first class at Adelphi University. For many years, the language barrier was very difficult for me. I did everything I could to build my own life in a way that I saw fit. It took over 25 years for me to learn about myself, and to get to a place in my life where I was able to live freely. Though America is still not entirely equal, I learned to claim equality for myself and to develop a mentality that was true to what I believed in. This was when I realized that there are many people similar to me striving for equality and independence. The forgotten dream I had in college in South Korea came back in full force. I began to talk to whoever would listen to my passion of helping others. My hope was to share inspiration and guidance to young people who are on their own personal and professional journeys. I worked to build an organization that reflected my vision.
On July 9th, 2014 at Patchogue-Medford Library, my team and I had our first presentation about creating a mentoring program for new adults ranging from 18 to 34 years old. With my devoted staff and board members, we became a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing individuals together to create a community filled with love, strength, and prosperity. With our many trainings, workshops, support meetings and social events, we established an organization working towards a common goal. Together, we spread the message that each and every one of us matter—we are all equally important and equally deserving of guidance.Our program continues to expand, and we invite residents in the Suffolk County area to grow with us. Join us in being a part of a movement that is fostering the leaders of tomorrow.