Show what you know - Become a Mentor!

Show what you know - Become a Mentor
Sarah Kremer, Program Manager, Friends for Youth Mentoring Institute

You may have seen the public service announcements last month asking you to "Share What You Know: Mentor a Child." These appeals marked the 7th Annual National Mentoring Month campaign, whose goal is to recruit volunteer mentors for programs across the country to help young people achieve their full potential. National Mentoring Month is spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Mentors are heroes – they expend the considerable effort needed to be a consistent, responsible role model for children who may not have much adult support, and they do this for little thanks and recognition. This growing national campaign is designed to help more people learn about the satisfaction to be found in sharing what they know by mentoring a child.

Most of us have had natural mentors in our lives; formal programs often serve a very limited slice of the youth population, so unless you were identified as being "at-risk" for something, you very likely did not have a formal mentor. Maybe it was a teacher, a coach, an aunt or uncle, or a neighbor. They were all mentors: someone who, without formal support, created a deliberate relationship with younger person who was not their child and who focused the relationship or interactions on ongoing guidance, instruction, and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of that younger person.

Many, many children and youth are not in formal mentoring programs. Coincidentally, not all adults want to be a part of formal programs, either. According to the Mentoring in America: A Snapshot of the Current State of Mentoring, the majority of mentors polled (71%) are doing so informally, and only 29% work within a structured program. "Kids need more support – in today's world as much as they can get. Mentoring is the headline on what needs to be done in every institution that deals with young people," the report says.

All adults have the potential to act in a mentoring role to the young people they know in their own communities. Even if you don't have time to be in a formal program, you still can be a mentor.

Encourage the people you know to make a connection with a young person. Ask yourself each day what you are doing to contribute to ways of influencing more people to be mentors, in either natural, informal settings or formal, structured programs.


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