Catching up with our Mentorship Co-Chairs

Off The Lane is beyond grateful for the time and dedication that our Mentorship Committee Co-Chairs, Mike Johnston and Robyn Frank, have put into the development of our Mentorship Program. Under their passionate and detail-oriented direction, the program is thriving and continued growth is happening on a daily basis. This past week, we celebrated the completion of our second and the start of our third session of the Mentorship Program. We’re thankful that our Co-Chairs had time to sit down with us to share where their passion for mentorship began and more about their process. Check it out below!

Where did your passion for Mentorship stem?

Mike: I was fortunate enough to work closely with the Disney VoluntEARS program while I was working for the Walt Disney Company on the West Coast. I also had the opportunity to work with a variety of other non-profit programs that focused on mentorship for youth. All of the experiences were so life-giving. Working together with people who were intentionally putting themselves in situations to share knowledge or skills that they have acquired with others, is an essential part of the human experience, in my opinion. As someone who is a direct result of people willing to invest their time and resources, I know the value first hand of having someone there for you, willing to speak into your life and navigate all of successes and failures along the way.

Robyn: I’ve always loved helping people and so my passion for mentorship began in high school when I was accepted into my school’s mentorship program SPARK (Sharing Perspectives Among Real Kids). We ran freshman orientation every year, partnered with schools to create proms/social programs for differently-abled students, and did a lot of fundraising through various activities to help better our school and community. It made me feel proud to be able to do so much good as a high schooler and helped me solidify my commitment to helping others!

What made you decide to get involved with the organization?

Mike: To be honest, when I heard Kristal Mallookis was interested in starting her own non-profit, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I am such a big believer in her ability to successfully do ANYTHING, that it was a no brainer when it comes to the opportunity of working with her.

Robyn: I would not be where I am today without mentorship, as it has shaped who I am as a person. I have worked with Off The Lane’s sister company, Mustard Lane, for 6 years because I believe in their mission and work ethic. Similarly, I believe in Off The Lane and The Mentorship Program and am so excited to have the opportunity to go back to my mentorship roots.

What has been a highlight working as Mentorship Co-Chair?

Mike: The highlight of working with the Mentorship Program as Co-Chair has been building the entire program from the ground up. Being part of a new program certainly has its challenges, but through trial and error, learning how to adapt, and understanding how to follow the natural ethos of the program, it has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. Understanding how to let something organically grow versus forcing something to look a certain way has been such an exciting thing to see and in many ways, the experience has totally surpassed my expectations.

Robyn: Honestly, watching the program grow! To see everything Off The Lane has accomplished in less than a year is remarkable and speaks to the dedication of our team. As the Mentorship Program continues to grow, I am so honored to be a part of it.

What was the hardest challenge when first creating the Mentorship Program?

Mike: The biggest challenge about first creating the Mentorship Program, and I would say continues to be a challenge for me, is wanting everything to happen right away. I get so excited about things that I want to blink and have 10 years of work done by the end of day Friday! My passion for succeeding mixed with a little bit (ok a lot) of competitiveness, makes me want great things and want it now! The real issue is that the team at Off The Lane is so incredible, that I know we can have all those great things I dream about.

Robyn: Finding what program structure worked best for us!

You guys do a lot for the organization! What is the thing you enjoy doing the most?

Mike: The thing I enjoy doing the most is hearing from the Mentors about how their sessions with the Mentees are going. It is so exciting to think about how these Mentors are such incredibly valuable resources for aspiring artists because they are living the very experience these younger artists crave.

Robyn: I love community outreach: Connecting with individuals from all over the US, as well as other countries (Australia and even China) and chatting with them over the phone or via Zoom about The Mentorship Program and how we can help young professionals make their successful moves to NYC.

What have you learned from the Mentors?

Mike: All of the Mentors involved with our program have taught me something new and unique to their own experience. I have never met a harder working group of people who possess such resilience and passion for their art. They are an inspiring group of individuals who collectively make up a beautiful community.

Robyn: How incredibly resourceful all of them are! Don’t know an answer? They will figure it out and use their expertise to help the mentees along the way! We have such dedicated mentors in our program and I am honored to know each and every one of them.

If you could offer one piece of advice to a potential Mentee what would it be?

Mike: Community is everything. No matter where you are geographically your experience is totally dependent on who you surround yourself with. The biggest investment you can make into your career and life is the investment in yourself. Find people who help you grow, who will have your back, and who will challenge you. It is those people that will make it all worth it. Those people will be the ones cheering you on when you succeed and reminding you of your power when they pick you up off the ground because you failed.

Robyn: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and embrace change. Each person is a unique individual and has their own unique career path!

Tell us something that made you smile today.

Mike: Something that made me smile today, and I’m sure will continue to make me smile for the rest of the year, is the new Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande song and music video, “Rain on Me”. I have not stopped dancing to it and because I love them both so much, I can’t wipe the smile off my face!

Robyn: My dog Velvet and how she loves chasing birds on our daily walks. She always thinks she can catch them but they’re always too fast for her.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog!