Mentoring effect brightens futures, strengthens community

“Deep human connection is… the purpose and the result of a meaningful life — and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.”

— Melinda Gates

Here’s a question for you. Do you remember you, before you were you? Before all the choices you made and the people who cared along the way? Who was it that helped you? Who believed in you, before you believed in yourself?

What if they hadn’t believed in you? What if you grew up feeling all alone day‐to‐day as life’s pressures encompassed you? Well then you’d be like 9 million children across the country, many children in our very own community, who say they’re growing up without grown‐ups to turn to.

You’d have less support in school. You would be less likely to graduate. You would be less likely to connect with community and more likely to miss out on opportunity. But, there is hope. Connect kids with someone who cares, give them time, give them attention, give them a mentor and the possibilities are limitless. Studies have shown that children who connect with a mentor learn more; they achieve more; they’re healthier for longer and more likely to avoid negative influences. This translates to real impact in our communities.

The most important things in life are the connections we make with others. Mentoring relationships are basic human connections that let a young person know that they matter and that there is someone who cares about them. In return, mentors frequently report back that their relationships make them feel like someone who matters in another person’s life.

Mentoring makes an impact in real life. All it takes is an afternoon or a couple hours here and there. All you have to do is be yourself, be there in moments big and small. By being a consistent adult presence in a young person’s life mentors can offer advice, share their life experiences, and help a young person navigate the day‐to‐day challenges of life.

Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and puts them on a path to greater achievement in fulfilling their potential.

If you want to help kids succeed in life you can simply start by intentionally investing your time and attention in healthy relationships with the young people already in your life. This fosters naturally occurring mentoring relationships. Young people need a range of caring adults in their lives to be successful and you can very easily be one of those caring adults.

However, we cannot afford to leave mentoring to chance. Too many children do not have mentoring relationships available to them. One out of three children faces the challenges of growing up without someone in their corner. There is a critical need for people who are willing to go beyond by volunteering to serve as a mentor to a child through a professionally supported mentoring program. There is always a need for more volunteers.

Mentoring works. Young people participating in quality mentoring programs miss fewer days of school; they are more likely to go to college and more likely to volunteer in their community. Children who benefit from the connection with a mentor have healthier relationships, are more likely to mentor others, less likely to start using drugs and more likely to be involved in sports and extra‐curricular activities. Mentoring relationships can empower youth giving them a more equal chance to realize their dreams.

When you mentor a child, it is the start of something big. Not only does mentoring impact the individual child but the investment in human connection offers the potential for incredible outcomes. The mentoring effect builds brighter futures and strengthens communities.

For more information to support local mentoring efforts visit upkids.com.

Maggie Munch is the Big Brother Big Sister program director for U.P. Kids.

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