In celebration of National Mentoring month, we’d like to repost a previous blog we shared that details the basics and benefits of mentoring youth. Mentoring is incredibly powerful for youth and there are plenty of organizations and kids looking for someone to fill that role. For Excelsior Youth Center, in particular, mentors are always in high demand!
For some people the question of whether or not to become a mentor is simple. For Katie Graber, a mentor at Excelsior Youth Center, “it rang like a bell”. Katie knew after her first visit to campus that becoming a mentor was something she could be really good at and more importantly it was something she wanted to commit to. For others, the thought of mentoring can be intimidating. Some people ask themselves, “What could I offer this young girl? I have never been through the things she has” or “I don’t have experience being a counselor so what if I say the wrong thing?” These are common questions and concerns, but don’t let them stop you from helping a young girl who needs a strong role model.
Being a mentor isn’t about being the best “counselor” or showering girls with gifts in an attempt to make up for lost time. It isn’t about sharing stories about their pasts or compensating for the immense pain which they have experienced in their short lives. Being a mentor is about being there and showing them you care – this is something many of them have never experienced. Adults in their lives have come and gone, and they’ve never experienced that sense of comfort and belonging that comes with an adult who shows up, listens and pays attention to them.
Aretha Huntington, a mentor at Excelsior since early 2007, says she became a mentor because “it was in my heart to work with troubled girls” and because “I have a granddaughter of my own and I’d like to think that if she ever needed someone to listen to her or needed a friend, that someone would help her the way I am helping the girls at Excelsior”. Have you thought about the “words of wisdom” you would share with a young person? Are you a good listener and is dependability your strong suit? If so, then you would make a great mentor!
Basically, a mentor is strong adult role model who works with a child individually to help them develop important life skills and enhance their self-esteem. Mentors come in a variety of forms and can fill a number of different roles, but they all have one goal in common: to help young people discover their strength and recognize their potential. A mentor’s role is not to replace a parent, guardian, or teacher, nor is it to become their disciplinarian or decision-maker. Instead a mentor echoes and models the positive values that the child’s parents, guardians or teachers are teaching.
Mentors do this by participating in fun activities with the child and sharing new experiences with them. Sharing these experiences builds a mentor/mentee relationship that encourages positive choices, supports academic achievement and promotes high self-esteem. In turn, the child begins to learn how to make her own positive choices and strive to achieve greater things for herself.
Benefits for Mentees
At the most basic level, mentors teach a young person that they are not alone in the world. They learn that someone cares about them and can support them in dealing with day-to-day challenges. In turn, the mentee’s self-esteem is strengthened because she realizes she is important enough for someone to care.
Specifically, studies have revealed impressive benefits of mentor relationships. Among high-risk youth (like the girls at Excelsior Youth Center), a 2013 study determined that the strongest and most consistent benefit was a reduction in depressive symptoms. Additionally, findings suggested gains in social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades.
Other studies found these impressive statistics:
- Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class
- Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking
- About 40% of a teenager’s waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision. Mentors provide teens with a valuable place to spend free time. Source
Benefits for Mentors
It’s important to note that the benefits of a mentor/mentee relationship don’t stop at the mentee – research suggests mentors gain many important benefits from these relationships as well.
Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW summaries it this way: “Some of the specific benefits that researchers have discovered include the following:
- Improved sense of health and well-being
- Enhanced self-image and sense of self-worth
- Sense of feeling valued and appreciated
- Sense of feeling competent and accomplished
- Sense of spiritual fulfillment
- Feeling of having gained deeper insights into one’s own childhood experiences
- Deeper understanding of and appreciation for one’s own children
- Sense of satisfaction from “giving back to the community”
- Sense of feeling needed
- Feeling of being respected by others for contributing to society” Source
Become a Mentor at Excelsior
Clearly, becoming a mentor is rewarding and benefits both parties involved. Still, it’s important to note that it is hard work and it does require a great deal of time and commitment. That said, if you put in this time and commitment, you can change a young girl’s life.
Excelsior is searching for individuals that have one to two hours per week to dedicate to one teenage girl between the ages of 11 and 18. Mentors and clients are matched based on shared interests and the individual needs of each client. They are not only encouraged to work with their mentee to improve challenging behaviors, but also to build long-lasting, rewarding relationships. As a mentor, you will spend time visiting your mentee on campus participating in activities such as playing games, cooking or baking, watching movies, teaching basic life skills, completing school work, and helping your student plan for the future.