From Our Scholar Blogs:

Message From Mentor: Ali Berlin

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What was your reaction when Bennington College accepted Sharon?

I was overwhelmed, proud, grateful and fully freaking out. I was speechless, shaking and in shock.

My husband and I were in the process of relocating from the San Francisco Bay Area to NY.  It was March 21, 2012 and I was actually in New York City, on the roof of an apt building during our search for a new home.  I checked my email and Nicholas (Bennington’s international admissions director) had emailed me and Barb letting us know that Sharon had been accepted with a full scholarship.  We had to keep it confidential because their official letters were not going out for a few more days.

How did you decide to become a mentor?

When Athena and Barb told me about Sharon and I really looked into her eyes (just through her photo), I knew that I was the one for her and she was the one for me.  I was called to step up with OAD because I knew more would be required of me– the depth of me– in the best ways.  The accountability to Sharon and the organization transformed me.  The community of passionate, generous, devoted people is astounding and grounding.  I immediately wanted to do whatever I could to support Sharon in achieving her dreams and blowing the lid off of what she thought was possible for her life.

What do you do when you aren’t mentoring?

When I’m not mentoring or Opening Doors, I’m primarily working as a life and relationship coach.  I spend my time talking with people about transforming their perspectives, spiritual practices, releasing fear and blocks, gaining emotional awareness and fully accepting themselves and others as a basis for lasting change, success and serenity.

When I’m not working, I’m usually wandering around NYC with my husband or talking with my dog about how beautiful he is.

What was it like when you met Sharon for the first time?

Surreal, but more like a soul reunion than a first encounter.

What was the greatest challenge with the application process?

Managing all the details!  I didn’t want to let anything fall through the cracks because Sharon’s future was riding on the deadlines, the financial aid paperwork, completing the applications on time, etc.   I really pushed Sharon on the essays and encouraged her to open up more than she had in the past- and maybe more than she was conditioned to share due to her cultural norms.  She was game and totally went for it.

Our relationship grew out of the application process, so despite how demanding and tedious as it was, I’m grateful for it.  We sweated it out together and it truly built a profound trust, intimacy and unbreakable bond between us.

What has been the most rewarding aspects of being a mentor so far?

Everything that would otherwise seem tedious and boring becomes gratifying and meaningful.  It’s not always easy– we are still humans with our patterns and quirks and personalities.  But the most meaningful relationships in my life are worth the investment of seeing someone else clearly, putting myself and my agenda aside and experiencing the magnificence that is possible when people come together who are destined to be together.  We heal each other, teach each other, humble each other and inspire each other to become even more amazing.

Sharon and I share a deep spiritual connection, and that has been one of the most surprising and relieving aspects of our relationship.  Speaking that language and having spirituality as both of our guiding lights has enhanced our communication, smoothed out our rough patches and enabled us to trust whatever comes our way.

Plus, Sharon is a total rock star and I am unspeakably proud of her and in awe of her. I’ve never met anyone like her and I know she is on this earth to work miracles.

What else can you tell me about OAD?

Get involved.  You’ll never be the same.