What does a mentor look like to you? For the student delegates that participate in the United States Student Youth Program (USSYP), an annual program that gives high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to receive an in-depth view of the federal government, they see mentors from every branch of the military. One such mentor is Army Capt. Laterrious "Tony" Starks.
Starks, an operations officer to the Chief of Staff with United States Army Europe, was selected to be a military mentor for the 2020 USSYP. He and the 16 other selected military members act as role models to the students during the week of the program to ensure they understand proper behavior and protocol when interacting with the country's top leaders.
"The program provides service members the opportunity to share their experiences and assist in building a stronger America by educating our youth," said Starks.
Starks competed against more than 60 candidates to be a military mentor. He said the program, "… is one of the nation's premier programs that align[s] with [his] aim of public service."
"I served as a military mentor in 2019 and believe that [they] are a critical part of USSYP," he said.
Starks said his most memorable experience with last year's group of students was coaching them through their senior leader engagements.
"To mentor them as they engaged our countries top leaders was an honor," he said. "Each of them were able to engage on a strategic level with the President, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and senior Department of Defense officials."
Starks' passion for mentorship didn't start in his military career, it was fostered by his relationship with his family in his hometown of Dallas.
"The relationship that I have with my mother and my Godparents have had the most influence on my life," he said. "The most important attributes she taught me was discipline and to hustle for what you want in life."
He believes mentorship is a powerful leadership tool and when used effectively it can inspire others to achieve their goals. Starks doesn't apply this belief just to the student delegates of the program, he also creates mentorship opportunities for individuals in his community.
"I have dedicated much of my adult life toward development of underprivileged youth," he said. "I am the president of a non-profit organization that provides annual scholarships to high school students, spiritual fitness coaching, and opportunities for civic engagement trips."
Starks believes that being a role model is truly simple, it is about being your best self and helping others do the same.