As National Mentoring Month comes to an end, I ask if we could have done more. With mentoring, everyone is a resource for building a better future for a child. Spending just one hour a week with a mentee is a small investment that yields amazing results. I can think of hundreds of stories from life and literature that involve a child who has reached his or her maximum potential because of a mentor. I’ve seen first hand the impact it has on someone’s life. National Mentoring Month is an excellent way to kick off the New Year, but I hope that mentors are celebrated all year long.
There are no limits on who can become a mentor. Even our children are giving back. Thirty central Florida teens, along with a few of their mentors, went to Tallahassee with our partners at ELEVATE Youth Achievement. The teens visited the FAMU and FSU campuses and learned valuable lessons from current college students. To show their appreciation, they volunteered with the local Jumpstart preschool program and spent the day playing games, painting faces and providing the same support that they receive from their mentors. They turned their Martin Luther King, Jr. Day into a day of service while many of the peers enjoyed it as a day off from school. Foster youth know the value of volunteerism because they see it every day.
The benefits of mentoring greatly outweigh its cost. Mentored youth are less likely to be bullies or fight and more likely to earn passing grades. They are less like to use drugs or alcohol and more likely to volunteer. There are 15 million children in the U.S. who want a mentor in their life. And I continue to wonder, can we do more?
Denise Hogan, our mentoring project coordinator has been a mentee for most of her life. Throughout high school, college and graduate school, Denise was fortunate to have a mentor help her reach her potential. Her new program, which is sponsored by the Florida Mentoring Partnership, has brought in 33 new mentors to work with children at Great Oaks Village and Sunnyside Youth Village. That means 33 foster children will have the guidance of an adult in their lives, but Denise is still hoping for more.
Becoming a mentor is simple. New mentors attend a brief training class and go through a background check. Once everything is in order, mentors are matched with youth. It takes only one hour a week to make an impact, but doing more is always encouraged. All Florida state agencies allow employees to take one paid hour a week to mentor through the Florida Mentoring Partnership and local organizations. The Florida Mentoring Partnership expects a 10 percent participation rate from state employees, but makes it possible for thousands more to make a difference.
So, the answer to my question is yes. We can always stand to do more. Mentoring depends on the willingness of the community to lift up those who need it most. Tamicka, one of our mentored youth, wishes that more people would help others. “You know you didn’t get to where you are alone,” she says. “So how can you expect others to do it without you?” She is still in high school, but she gives her peers the same support she receives from her mentor. When she goes to college, she wants to be the type of person that high school students and college freshmen come to with all their questions. But before she gets there, she has one question for you – how can you do more?