If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution – or are already falling behind on the one you chose – there’s still time to make one you can stick with. January is National Mentorship Month, and now is the perfect time to become a mentor. Just a little of your time goes a long way and I promise it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have all year.
IWCO Direct has a long tradition of supporting mentorship programs through our work with the Minnesota Business Partnership and the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota (MPM). These organizations help provide richer training and professional development experiences for Minnesota youth mentoring programs. In fact, we were recently awarded the 2014 Robert J. Dayton Quality Mentoring Award for Leading Investor by the MPM, which supports more than 300 mentor programs that serve 196,000 youth of all ages (primarily 5-18) in mentoring relationships across Minnesota. At least 86% of the youth receive free or reduced lunch, 68% live in single parent homes and 66% need more academic support. Our donations, along with many others, allow the MPM to offer training, develop resources and bridge research with practice to position programs to help their staff to become more effective support systems for youth and volunteers. It also provides mentoring programs with the backbone support they need in order to produce quality mentoring matches that lead to measurable outcomes for youth.
Research shows that when young people know their passions and have adults who support their spark, they are more likely to:
- Have a sense of purpose
- Be socially competent and physically healthy
- Volunteer to help others
- Have better attendance and higher grades in school
Mentorship also has practical business purposes and is recognized as a way of developing youth in readiness to be future leaders of an organization. Early identification of talented individuals with the potential to advance allows a business to fully assess the training necessary to further develop their talents. This ultimately prepares candidates to ‘step in’ with the knowledge and experience the organization needs.
But none of this can happen without people like you who decide to get involved. So is 2015 your year?
Blast Through Those Doubts
One of the biggest hurdles in convincing people to become a mentor is they believe they don’t have the time, or they’re unsure what to do with a young person. I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You can help young people thrive simply by talking with them. A book called Sparks: How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers, authored by the late Peter Benson of the Search Institute, describes this as having real, person-to-person conversations with them. Focus on talks that help them discover their own abilities and possibilities; talks that guide them to try new things and take next steps; talks that reveal your own struggles and dreams and lessons learned, so that children can learn from them. The focus is talking “with,” not talking “to,” so it’s important to listen first, ask questions, encourage their ideas and let them feel safe. You can do that!
Remember, a young person’s wellbeing doesn’t depend on just one person. Think of yourself as just one of that young person’s coaches in life. If you’re ready to get started, a great resource to check out is the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota’s website. It will help you learn more about mentoring and find a mentoring program to get involved with. If you’re not in Minnesota, the National Mentorship Month website is a great resource for finding mentorship programs in your area.
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