Many successful people credit one or more mentors who made a big difference in helping them achieve success and greater resiliency during their younger lives. Even as a recently retired person in my 60’s, I can clearly recall neighbors, teachers, colleagues, elders and some not-so-elders who in one way or another served to provide important guidance and direction at critical points in my growing up. In some instances, I needed only to observe in order to learn -it was mentoring from afar with someone leading by example. In others, I appreciated that someone was more direct and took me by the hand (or sometimes the scruff of the neck) in order to help me make better life decisions.
Today in an attempt to pay it forward, I am a mentor – and have been since the very earliest days of the Girls/Boyz First Mentoring Program in 1998.
A mentor may, however, not be what you think.
Research and common sense leave little doubt that children and youth need caring and consistent relationships with adults in order to successfully navigate their way through adolescence and beyond. For many, however, there is no adult that can totally fulfill that role. Parents can be overburdened by the need to make a living, be stressed by parenting alone or under difficult circumstances, or may simply want their child exposed to an adult influence other than themselves. For whatever reason a child comes to a mentoring program, opportunity exists for making a significant difference in that young person’s life.
A mentor is usually an adult who guides a less experienced young person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors. An effective mentor understands that his or her role is to be dependable, engaged, authentic, and tuned in to the needs of the mentee. For children or youth who come from less than ideal circumstances, mentoring can be a critical way to build positive outcomes and future success as young adults.
My personal journey as a mentor has allowed me to get to know David, Daniel, Shawn, and currently Sarvesh. My longest mentor/mentee relationship took me from elementary school through enlistment in the Vermont National Guard upon graduation from high school. Through the years I have enjoyed mentoring young Vermonters, getting to know their parents, and coaching (as well as learning from) my mentees. My own quality of life has been improved by sharing it with a young person. This clearly is a reciprocal relationship that nurtures both the mentor and the mentee and, hopefully, leads to greater compassion and greater understanding on the part of both. Mentoring has made me a better person!