Tuesday, January 15, 2019

National Mentoring Month January Is: Mentors My Life Helped Shape

Looked back on your life have you? Realized trying to help you succeed someone was? Didn't see it at the time, did you?

January being National Mentoring Month, here's a glimpse at how my mentors informed some of my most influential professional and personal decisions:
  • Applied for and earned a three-year Army ROTC scholarship
  • Chose a "hardship duty" post in Korea as a young Lieutenant
  • Enrolled in and completed a Master's degree program while in the Army
  • Left a great job in D.C. and moved to Massachusetts for love
  • Referred to MIT for a communications position in a new Engineering Leadership program
  • Started a boutique communications firm that helped several clients meet their branding, marketing and fundraising goals
In some cases to my personal and professional detriment, I dismissed advice from mentors (Yoda, you were right!). Hindsight shows how right they were, their courage telling me what I didn't want to hear, and their commitment to stick by me as I learned from my flawed decisions.

The Original Mentor

The story of Mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey: Before leaving his kingdom of Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War, Odysseus entrusted the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus. The word 'Mentor' evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. 

In more recent history, research on youth mentoring shows that it can foster academic achievement, encourage positive peer relationships and healthy behaviors, prevent and reduce juvenile crime and recidivism, and support youth who may be struggling with mental health challenges. 

Mentorship Improves Youth Outcomes

Having a mentor helps young people stay in school, develop a positive attitude toward learning and make them more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and succeed in a work environment. According to the Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP): 
  • Youth who have mentors are 52% less likely to skip school, making them more likely to graduate
  • 64% of students with mentors develop a more positive attitude toward school, leading to better learning
  • Youth with mentors are 63% more likely to reduce high-risk behaviors like violent tendencies, and drug, alcohol and tobacco use

In Massachusetts, MMP drives efforts to expand empowering youth-adult relationships to meet the needs of communities. MMP works with mentoring programs and youth development organizations to assess programmatic needs and organizational capacity, offering customized strategies that strengthen youth, families, and communities. 

MMP reports that more than 3,000 youth across Massachusetts are waiting to be matched with caring, adult mentors.

What Makes a Good Mentoring Relationship

In a balanced mentoring relationship, one person invests time, energy and personal knowledge to enhance the growth, ability and opportunities of another. Mentors are caring adults who are committed, responsible, and reliable. Mentoring is most effective when it’s a structured and trusting relationship that connects young people with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement. 

In my experience, mentoring has had an enduring positive effect on my life, and--I hope--the lives of my mentors. It's comforting that history offers many examples of helpful and productive mentoring relationships (Socrates and Plato, Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung). 

While history will neither record nor remember my contributions as a mentor, the mentors I was fortunate to have provided outstanding examples of how I can best serve my mentees. Make a difference. Be a mentor. 

Mentoring Resources

1 comment:

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