Our mentoring story began in 2010 when David Garcia (second from left in image) was completing his master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh and was accepted into the ACSM Leadership and Diversity Training Program (LDTP). The LDTP encourages ACSM members from underrepresented minority groups in the sciences to participate in activities that will lead to increased ACSM service and leadership, enhanced pathways to degree completion and successful mentored experiences. Through the LDTP, David was paired with ACSM Fellow Stella Volpe, Ph.D., RD, LDN, FACSM (far left in image), a professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences at Drexel University. It was Stella’s first match since volunteering to be a mentor.
David: In our first meeting, a few things about Stella became very apparent. First, everyone knows STELLAAAAA (insert the movie quote). Second, she is the kindest person you will ever meet. For anyone who has met Stella, you know she will always greet you with a smile, hug and friendly conversation. Finally, she loves dogs, and it just so happens that my initials are D.O.G. Needless to say, our mentor/protégé relationship was meant to be, and we became known as “Stella and DOG.”
Stella: Over the course of the next six years, I mentored David as my protégé. He came to know the “ins and outs” of ACSM leadership roles and responsibilities. More importantly, as his mentor I helped him see the value of enjoying what you do, developing a strong work ethic and staying humble. In six years together, David achieved many personal and career milestones. He got married and had two children, a boy named Mateo and a girl named Stella (not a coincidence). He completed his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees, completed a post-doctoral fellowship and became an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. He published in the areas of dog ownership and physical activity, while I served as co-author on these publications. David also earned ACSM Fellowship status, ultimately achieving one of the main goals of the LDTP.
David: As I was writing this blog, I took time to reflect on my experiences as an LDTP protégé. I have so many fond memories. First and foremost, I think of the wonderful network of mentors and colleagues that I have had the opportunity to interact with over the past nine years. Not only has Stella been there for me, but Drs. NiCole Keith and David Marquez have also been instrumental in my professional development. In addition, my fellow LDTP protégés (Dr. Susan Aguiñaga, Dr. Eduardo Bustamante, Dr. Mario Muñoz and many more) served as constant sources of support and guidance. And of course, there is the ACSM staff, especially Chris Sawyer, who supports the mission of the LDTP and serves as an advocate for all of us.
I also think of the countless hours and discussions with Stella about my career goals. To this day I still seek her advice and guidance. I have benefited greatly from my experiences with the LDTP “family” – this is ultimately what we are, and it is with my deepest gratitude that I am part of it. Please consider donating to the ACSM Foundation’s Diversity and Mentorship fund. Help others find their STELLAAAAA…
Stella: When reading David’s words, I smiled and cried, because it is very touching and means a lot to me. Although I was the “mentor” in this wonderful ACSM LDTP partnership, I learned a lot from David, and also felt blessed to be his mentor. David is right. We have had a lot of phone calls through our six years as an LDTP protégé-mentor pair or, as David wrote, “Stella and DOG!”
When David asks me for advice and guidance now, it makes me happy to know that he wants my support and opinions. The ACSM LDTP is a wonderful program, and it has allowed me to get to know more people at ACSM, which is another blessing! In addition, I presently have another LDTP protégé, Dr. Andrea Duran, and she and David have become friends. David has also provided her with some mentorship and even become an official LDTP mentor himself, which means that this program will continue to be robust! A big thanks to Chris Sawyer from ACSM, and to all who work so hard to keep this program strong!