When Paulina Costantini graduated from University of California Irvine and entered the workforce as an analyst at Northrop Grumman, she struggled with the transition to professional life.
“It was so monotonous. I just kept thinking this isn’t a way to live—you’re not really living for anything,” Costantini explained. “I started looking for ways to give back because I felt like something was missing in my life.”
The Torrance native got the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way when she discovered Walk With Sally, an organization that pairs volunteers with children whose lives have been impacted by a cancer diagnosis within their family.
Costantini, who lost her grandfather to cancer when she was young, said she felt the cause would be right up her alley.
“When I saw this organization that helped pair mentors with kids going through the same thing ... and maybe not being able to talk with anyone about it or having that fun part of their lives anymore ... I wanted to get involved,” she said.
She began by volunteering for the organization in February 2017 and was paired that July with her mentee: a nine-year-old girl named Arleth, one of three siblings, whose mother had been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Since then, the two have formed a strong bond. They participate in community events through Walk with Sally, such as a surf day at the beach or bowling nights, attend sporting events, get manicures, or just hang out and make bracelets.
Although it took time for the little girl to open up, Costantini said, their friendship has withstood the test of time. And, it's withstood the loss of Arleth’s mother, Iselda, last September.
“My main goal has been just trying to show up for them,” Costantini said, noting she started a GoFundMe campaign to help the family with expenses. “Just trying to go the extra mile and help the family with their time of need.”
Costantini’s efforts have earned her “Mentor of the Year” for Walk With Sally and she will be honored at the organization’s Mentor Appreciation Mixer Jan. 31.
But, for Costantini, the recognition is simply a bonus.
“It’s humbling, but it’s not really about that,” she said. “I sought out this program to try and make a difference, but I really do feel like I’ve gotten so much out of it.”
Costantini said her experience with Walk with Sally has helped her reevaluate her perspective and realize the importance of recognizing blessings.
“It’s not only giving to Arleth, she has given back to me so much,” Costantini said, expressing how close she has grown to the little girl’s family. “It’s not just that I made a connection with Arleth, I’ve now added to my extended family.”
The South Bay local noted the Walk with Sally organization has changed her life and that she is inspired by the involvement she has seen from the community.
“The word is spreading about Walk with Sally and you see people from Redondo, Manhattan, Torrance, all these different areas trying to give back and mentor,” Costantini said. “It just shows how people in the South Bay really do care about their community as a whole.”