Mentoring: the Gift that Keeps on Giving!

November 25, 2015

Throughout my life I’ve been fortunate to run into adults who went out of their way to mentor me in some aspect of my life. One was the parent of a close friend who helped me understand money, another was a boss who gave me homework on professionalism and teamwork, and another was a college professor who met with me monthly to develop a course of action and develop study strategies. A large part of who I am and how I navigate the world was molded by adults who simply took a few hours to nudge me. My path is my own but my mentors helped me find it.

Many young people will never have the chance at these benefits that some of us take for granted. Children may not have the consistent presence of a positive adult role model or schools may not have the resources to support educators in mentoring students. That’s where individual volunteers come in.

So how does one become a mentor to a kid who might really need one? There are tons of Colorado based mentoring programs available that match mentors with mentees while providing ongoing training and support for mentors.

National organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, match mentors and mentees based on mutual interests and only require a few hours each month sharing activities both already enjoy.

Maybe you would be more interested in something more involved, such as Colorado Youth at Risk. Colorado Youth at Risk offers “…community based and intensive programs”  that “aims to reduce the number of high school dropouts, match students with adult mentors and provide students with a sense of the future and their place in that future”.

Locally-based mentor programs, such as Grand Junction’s Mesa Partners or the Middle School Mentorship Program in Pueblo, are great for volunteers looking for programs based in their communities.

No matter what your interest level or location there are many ways to mentor youth in your area. The benefits of mentoring, particularly for youth, are fairly well documented.  Increased graduation rates, decreased drop-out rates, healthier lifestyle choices and relationships, and improved interpersonal skills are just a few of the positive outcomes for mentees.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, mentors have reported increased self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, new insights into adolescence, and increased patience and supervisory skills. It’s kind of a win-win situation.

It’s easy to think we aren’t cut out to be mentors. There’s a tendency among prospective mentors to imagine themselves tutoring a student all the time or offering profound wisdom on life at every turn. It can be a daunting proposition when you think of it from that perspective.

While mentoring can lead to improved academics or sharing perspectives, it all boils down to building an ongoing relationship rooted in trust and respect. It’s about becoming a friend first and perhaps a trusted confidant or coach later. We all have friends, why not make one more who might really need one?