Saturday, December 29, 2007

Be A Mentor

Courtesy of dakari9

Imagine that you’re a child, being raised by only one parent, struggling to keep clothes on your back. Imagine that your parents are inexperienced teens, who probably aren’t married and they don’t know what they want to do with their lives, let alone the first thing about raising children. Imagine that you’re living in poverty, where most of your time is spent worrying about your next meal and not too much time is spent thinking about your future. Finally in any of the three scenarios, you can find yourself not seeing the point in going to school any longer and are considering quitting high school, maybe the idea of money earned at a full-time job (or more) might seem more important or so you believe that by doing so that you would have more time to do drugs. Under any and all of these circumstances, you could definitely use a mentor, someone to show you the way in life and help you to find answers to the questions that are probably running through your mind, someone that could be a positive role model and provide stability in a sea of turbulence and uncertainty? It is estimated that of the 32.5 million American kids between the ages of 10 and 18, that about half could benefit from a mentor and that for 15.1 million kids a mentor is not available. So many children in need of help, is certainly a driver for many mentoring efforts by various charities and charitable organizations. Awareness is one of the biggest drivers behind January 2008 being the 7th annual National Mentoring Month in the U.S. In addition, January 24th is Thank Your Mentor Day.

A mentor can be a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. The person being mentored is more commonly referred to as the Protégé and sometimes called the Mentee. Mentoring goes all the way back Greek times with Socrates/Plato, and Plato/Aristotle having Mentor/ Protégé relationships. The business world has discovered the importance of mentoring and many people have benefited from mentors. Many companies will pair new hires with more experience employees, sometimes mentoring is used to groom up and coming employees with a series of coaches assigned. Many successful people in life have had a mentor at some point in their life to show them the the way (or at least a way).

Special skills are not required to be a mentor and mentors can come from all walks of life. What is needed are people that can give their time, experience, and to be able to listen to a mentee, providing valuable feedback. If you think back to when you were this age, there is probably someone that you could talk to about your concerns, maybe they didn’t always have the answers but they were there for you and helped you to think things through more clearly. Maybe they were your one or both of your parents, a relative, a teacher, or a friend, but they were there when you needed them. As an adult you have been through a lot to things that you probably don’t think about too much but your advice on dealing with these things could be invaluable and even life-saving to some of these kids. You might be able to encourage them to continue on with their education by pointing out the benefits of doing so, maybe you wish that you had gone to college and talk about this with them. You would be able to tell about how you got your first real job and help them in their preparation. You have learned so many of life’s lessons (some maybe even the hard way), your experiences could be invaluable to kid in need of a mentor.

According to the, of the 32.5 million kids (ages 10-18) in the U.S, it is estimated that about half could benefit from a mentor (17.6 million) and of that there is an estimated mentoring gap (where a mentor is not currently available) of 15.1 million kids. Consider that:

  • 1 out of 4 kids lives with only one parent
  • 1 out of 10 kids was born to teen parents
  • 1 out of 5 kids lives in poverty
  • 1 out of 10 kids will not finish high school

A lot has been said and written about the decline of the nuclear family, one where there is a father and mother living together with their kids. There are so many mixed families where there are children from previous marriages (or relationships), where the parents aren’t able to full-fill the role that they have traditionally served in a nuclear family. I have seen many divorced families and can relate to the fact that the parent with primary responsibility is so busy in trying to do it all that they might not see the signs that their kid(s) need help and are struggling. Even in “normal” families there is conflict and rebellion between children and their parent(s) and kids might not talk to them about any serious issues at all. In many of these situations, a positive role model would be beneficial and could provide a bite more stability in these kids’ lives.

Unlike some of the major issues today that will require a lot of money and resources to solve, mentoring doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, is something that most everyone can do, and you can have an almost immediate impact. You’re not expected to be a parent to these kids. What is needed is people that are willing to spend time listening and just being there for your mentee. Even with the busy schedules that most of us have, you probably have time to be a mentor. Many mentors have said that they have gotten just as much out of being a mentor as the gave,if not more. This is also a great way to fulfill that New Year’s Resolution of “making a difference”.

Some of the local organizations that are involved in the 7th annual National Mentoring Month include state and local affiliates in the U.S. of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, Corporation for National and Community Service, Points of Light Foundation, America's Promise Alliance, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Communities in Schools, and United Way of America. Public service announcements from Colin Powel, Cal Ripken Jr., Quincy Jones, Usher, John Glenn, President Bill Clinton, Richard Dreyfuss, Edward James Olmos, Martin Sheen, Ray Charles, Kelsey Grammer, Mary Hart, Marc Anthony, Deepak Chopra, Larry King, Sen. John McCain, Bill Russell, Tim Russert, Mike Wallace, and various mentors and their protégés are available at the Who Mentored You website here.

I hope that you will look into being a mentor. There are a lot of kids that could use a mentor; I hope that you’ll become a mentor.

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