Written by Betsy Abraham Thursday, 06 February 2014 00:00
Dana Boylan knows the power of influence and good advice. When she was in high school, she worked at Roy Rodgers to make some extra cash. One of her regular customers was a principal from a Brooklyn high school, who would often give her college materials and articles about different educational programs.
“As a teenager you just store the information, but one day it just resonates,” Boylan says. “I was trying to figure out where I was going to go to college, and I happened upon one of the articles he dropped off for me. I applied to local schools and ended up going to St. Johns.”
Today, Boylan is an attorney with the Nassau County District Attorney’s office. She says that people like that principal from her high school years and other mentors throughout her life have helped guide her toward success.
“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had many people who formally and informally mentored me since I was a kid,” the Westbury resident says.
And now, Boylan is returning the favor. She has been influential in bringing the Nassau County Bar Association’s mentorship program to Westbury Middle School which provides mentors to local teenagers.
For the past three years, the program has been pairing junior high students with attorneys in one-on-one mentoring relationships. Pairs meet every other week at the school. Boylan started out at the program as a mentor but her main role now is coordinator, where she matches up mentors and mentees. She works with the middle school to plan trips for the program and this year, Boylan and other mentors will be taking their mentees to the Mentoring Partnership of Long Island’s Mentoring Matters Conference at the Brookville campus of Long Island University. At the conference, students will have a unique opportunity to build relationships and spend the day on a college campus.
In the past Boylan has also arranged for guest speakers to present to the group representing professionals from different fields including judges, lawyers, doctors, etc. But the most valuable time for the kids is spent with their mentors, discussing life experiences or simply having fun.
“My philosophy is that everyone needs a mentor. If you’re charting a new path, you need to connect with people who’ve already taken that path,” Boylan said. “It is not merely career focused, we give students a more well-rounded and balanced mentorship.”
The program is not just targeted toward at-risk students; it also includes children who may come from stable homes but have problematic elements like only having one parent present.
“It makes a difference in students that do not have the benefit of having those conversations in their households or of having someone taking the time to sit them down and say this is ‘how I did it’ and ‘these are the steps to achieve your goals.’ It’s priceless and not something you can trade. But unfortunately not too many students have that opportunity,” she said.
As a mother of two, Boylan also makes sure her own children are connected with mentors. Her commitment to service extends beyond Westbury through her work at the District Attorney’s Office, where she is involved in community affairs, helping youth and adults who’ve stumbled into the criminal justice system successfully reenter into their communities and connect with vital resources. She’s also involved in several civic and community organizations such as the Sherwood Gardens Civic Association, Greater Westbury Arts Council, the Jack and Jill of Nassau County and Women of Integrity in Hempstead.