Mentor Spotlight: Meet Sydney

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Sydney was born in Tongling, China and has lived in NYC all her life.  She has a younger sister who was also adopted from China.  Sydney has always loved singing and dancing, and as a result studied classics voice in high school.  As a teenager, Sydney was a Mentee in Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program.   She became a Mentor in 2018 and is excited to continue forming lasting connections with the Mentees and supporting them on their adoption journey.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?

I was adopted from Tongling, Anhui, China at 9 months old.  I grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn and have lived there since. Currently, I am working towards a Master of Social Work degree at Hunter College.

HOW DID YOUR FAMILY SHARE YOUR ADOPTION STORY WITH YOU?

I always knew I was adopted, just based on the mere fact that my physical features contrast with those of my parents. I have tan skin, dark hair, and dark brown eyes, whilst my parents are quite fair and have blue and green eyes and blonde hair. When I was younger, I was curious about my adoption story, and when I was around 11 or 12, my parents showed me my adoption papers and documents. It was surreal seeing them because I was able to hold on to tangible artifacts of my past in addition to the memories I had stored in my mind for years.

WHAT MYTHS OR MISCONCEPTIONS DID YOU ENCOUNTER AS AN ADOPTEE?

The most common question I have been asked as an adoptee is whether or not I miss my “real parents.” Because I am proud to call myself an advocate of my community, I always feel the need to clarify the difference between a biological and real parent. My real parents are those that have raised me, loved me, and provided a safe environment in which I could flourish. On the other hand, my biological parents created me, but I have no knowledge about them. I will always appreciate their value in my life, but do not see them as my real parents, and making that distinction is important to me.

WHEN DID YOU GET CONNECTED TO SPENCE-CHAPIN’S MENTORSHIP PROGRAM?

I got connected to Spence Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program as a Mentee back in 2013, when I was a junior in high school. I had previously been part of another community adoption organization and wanted to partake in more adoption-related activities. I was also adopted through Spence and felt like I wanted to get re-connected to my adoption agency. I had to take a break from the Program when I went to college in upstate New York but have since returned as a Mentor after I graduated and moved back to the city.

WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM BEING IN THE MENTORSHIP PROGRAM AS A YOUNG ADOPTEE?

I’ve always spoken about my love for this Program because it changed my life in so many ways. I became more connected to my own identity though sharing experiences and bonding with other Mentees and older Mentors. I felt at home in this program by being in a room saturated with adoptees, all of whose stories are unique but so similar in a myriad of ways. I also fostered a close connection to a Mentor whom I view as one of my most important role models today.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MENTOR?

I have greatly appreciated the shift in experience and the novelty that has come with being an adult Mentor. I was nervous about building connections with the Mentees, but I realized that they just want to be heard and appreciated for who they are. I enjoyed talking to them about their experiences of being teenagers and in some ways, I felt like I could still relate, because I was a teenager not too long ago. I also appreciated the Mentees’ kindness and acceptance of who I was and continue to be. I felt like I could be myself around them, just as they felt comfortable being who they were around me in return.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU SHARE WITH YOUNG ADOPTEES IN THE MENTORSHIP PROGRAM?

When I see a Mentee struggling or feeling down about themselves, I tell them to be patient and that it is okay not to always know what is around the bend. I think as a young person, it can feel like the world is against you when things don’t go smoothly. I always like to remind the Mentees that things will get better, and that our perception of our own lives greatly impacts the way we live them.

Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program is for adopted middle and high school students. Our program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences. To learn more about joining the Program as a Mentee or Mentor, contact us at mentorship@spence-chapin.org or sign up for our FREE Mentorship Webinar!

To find out more contact us at

212-400-8150 or email us at info@spence-chapin.org.

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