January is National Mentoring Month, and there are many reasons to celebrate. Take a few minutes to thank the mentors that have made a difference in your life, and reflect on what you can do to pass along the wisdom and life lessons to youth in your community.
The benefits of being a mentee.
I’ve been lucky enough to have benefited from multiple mentors throughout my life. In both high school and college, I was drawn to a few teachers who exhibited the charisma, intelligence, compassion, and quirks I admired. I had the opportunity to take several classes with these teachers and work with them in other capacities, as well, such as student organizations and a work-study job.
They weren’t only great teachers but also great people. They pushed me in the right direction but still let me make mistakes so I could learn from those mistakes. The informal mentoring they provided, both inside and outside of the classroom, was just what I needed as a young adult finding my way in the world.
The pleasure of serving as a mentor.
On the other side of the relationship, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a mentor to youth in my life and community. In college, I volunteered to be a Big Sister for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and it was very fulfilling to see my Little Sister grow and mature and to know I played a role in shaping her life. But you don’t have to join a formal mentoring program to make a difference.
My mom runs a home daycare, and she’s had lots of children of all ages come through over the years. As I got older, I enjoyed helping my mom with the children and formed lasting relationships with a few of the ones who stuck around for a while. I consider two of them to be my younger sisters, and I know they’re just as grateful to have me in their lives as I am to have them in mine.
Being a youth mentor doesn’t require any special skills.
If you’re willing to practice patience, empathy, and respect and have a bit of your time to give, you can be a youth mentor and make a difference in the life of a young person. According to a study commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, young people with a mentor are more likely to do well in school and at work and have higher levels of social, emotional, and behavioral development than young people without a mentor. The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs website youth.gov also identifies the following benefits for youth involved in a mentoring program:
- Increased high school graduation rates.
- Higher college enrollment rates.
- Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Improved interpersonal skills.
- Improved behavior, both at home and at school.
I encourage you to consider being a youth mentor, whether it be through a formal mentoring program or just reaching out to the young people in your life. It can be a very rewarding experience on both sides of the relationship.