Nurse practitioner Millie Goetz started out as a professional mentor to ACU basketball player Addison Martin. Now she is much more – a cheerleader on and off the court, as well as a friend.
The two were matched by head women’s basketball coach Julie Goodenough as part of the team’s Wildcat Mentor program, which pairs players with local professionals who can serve as role models in the field they want to enter after graduation.
It’s hard to tell who gets the most out of the program – the basketball players it was designed for or the professionals who make it happen.
“I love being able to talk to someone about what it is going to be like in the real world after I graduate college and I am done playing basketball,” said Martin, business management major from Shreveport, Louisiana. In addition to her job as a nurse practitioner, Goetz also owns Big Country Medical Spa and has been able to answer Martin’s questions about what it is like to run her own business.
And Goetz feels equally enriched by the relationship.
“Addi is encouraging and has such a great attitude and dedicated spirit, just being around her is refreshing,” said Goetz. “She has also been an inspiration to my 9-year-old daughter. There is no better person I can think of for my daughter to look up to. So I feel our relationship is very full circle.”
Over the two years they have been matched, their relationship has grown deeper. Martin recalls the time she went with Goez and her daughter to get pedicures. “My mother called me with some not so good news. At that moment, I was very scared and she sat there with me and talked me through everything,” Martin said. “She continued to check up on me days after the bad news, and that’s when I knew that she was someone I knew I needed in my life.”
Zoe Jackson, education major from McKinney, Texas, has found similar inspiration through her mentor, Caren Christian. Jackson’s mother is an elementary principal, and she wants to follow in her footsteps. Christian has 18 years experience in education, and is currently principal of Wylie East Elementary School in Abilene.
“I have had a great time getting to know Mrs. Christian throughout this year,” said Jackson. “I have gained a lot of understanding on what it takes to become an elementary principal. She has had the pleasure of coming to some of my games as well.”
Christian said she feels blessed to be part of the program.
“My own mentor and friend is Rob Goodenough, Julie’s husband. I knew about her mentorship program from him, and I was so honored when she asked me to participate this year,” Christian said. “I think about all the women and men who have poured into me as I have grown in my career, and I enjoy getting to pay it forward.”
Goodenough had heard about similar programs around the country and decided to start one for ACU players during the 2017-18 season. Each June, she visits with her players individually to find out what their dream job is.
“At that point I connect with women in town who are in those professions,” she said. “I ask friends and coworkers for recommendations as well. Not only do we connect our players to people who currently have their dream job, but are also very intentional about finding Christian career women who can serve as spiritual leaders as well.”
This is not an internship or shadowing arrangement, but more of a friendship, Goodenough said. “We have had players change their major due to this program. After they learn what the career really entails, they know that they are not interested in that any longer – which is actually a really good thing to find out early.”
Some of the basketball team’s past and current mentors have become the Wildcats’ biggest fans, including Dr. Denise Barnett, associate professor in ACU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and coordinator of the speech pathology program.
“She mentored two of our players for four seasons,” Goodenough said. “She has truly become a super fan, and was awarded our Gary and Sylvia McCaleb Fan of the Year Award last spring at our banquet. It is pretty cool when they become ACU women’s basketball fans because of their friendship with one of our players.”
But the best part for mentors like Goetz is being able to share important lessons in life.
“Sharing my career and work experience has been a great reminder of why I love what I do, and it’s a joy to share that passion,” said Goetz. “My goal has not been to prepare Addison to work in the medical field but rather about the importance of loving what you do and being passionate about your work, no matter your career path.”
– Robin Saylor
Feb. 23, 2023