If you made one, your New Year’s resolution has something in common with everyone else’s: It relies on the will of a single person to make a change in her or his own life. Becoming a mentor uses that will to change the lives of others – and there’s no better time to start than now, during National Mentorship Month.
Drawing from my experience as a board member of the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota (MPMN), we know firsthand that the need for mentors is apparent both at the state and national levels, particularly for male mentors of male teens. More than 250,000 youth in Minnesota alone don’t have the tools they need to succeed academically and socially. The consistent, enduring presence of a caring adult in a young person’s life can be the difference between staying in school or dropping out; between making healthy decisions or engaging in risky behaviors; between realizing one’s potential or failing to achieve one’s dreams. With a mentor kids can make better choices every day.
A mentor is a necessary component for some youths to succeed – a catalyst for the self-esteem that empowers them with better decision-making skills. With a mentor supporting them, youths begin to view themselves more positively. Mentoring, at its core, illustrates to young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures that they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter.
Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring links a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. But mentoring relationships are a shared opportunity for learning and growth.
As important as mentorship is to a young person, many mentors say that the rewards they gain from being a mentor are just as substantial as the opportunities they afford their mentee. They report that mentoring enables them to:
- Achieve personal growth and learn more about themselves
- Improve their self-esteem and feel they are making a difference
- Gain a better understanding of other cultures and develop a deeper appreciation for diversity
- Feel more productive and have a better attitude at work
- Enhance their relationships with their own children
- Have fun
While quality mentorship requires time and dedication, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. There are many ways to be a friend, listener, confidant and coach to youth. Here are five activities you can do to maintain a year-round mentorship with a young person, either in school or on a one-to-one basis:
- Find educational apps and play games
- Do a fun “career finder” game to assess a child’s interests
- Find and discuss a book or series of interest to both parties
- Play board games
- Plan a college work day, college visit, or work on college applications
- Explore state parks to encourage love of learning
- Cook a meal together and talk about nutrition
- Build Lego sets to inspire creativity
- Volunteer together to build personal integrity
- Watch a movie together and discuss its themes
There are plenty of resources to get both first-time mentors off the ground and supplement experienced mentors. The Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota provides a host of opportunities, programs and materials for those interested in becoming mentors, and accepts monetary donations if you cannot donate your time. The National Mentoring Month website is also full of information on how to get involved with mentoring if you live outside Minnesota.
Mentorship Month is a perfect jumping-on point for new mentors and a great way to kick-start a long-term tradition of rewarding personal enrichment. We hope you’ll take the opportunity to get involved with mentoring in 2016.
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