January 7, 2008
January is National Mentoring Month.
"The campaign's goal is to recruit volunteer mentors to
help young people achieve their full potential. The
campaign's theme is 'Share What You Know. Mentor a Child.'
... Participants in the National Mentoring Month campaign
include leading nonprofit organizations and numerous
governors and mayors. In communities across the country,
designated nonprofit and governmental agencies are
responsible for coordinating local campaign activities,
including media outreach and volunteer recruitment. These
local lead partners include state and local affiliates of
MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, Corporation for
National and Community Service, Points of Light Foundation
and Volunteer Center National Network, America's Promise
Alliance, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Communities
in Schools, and United Way of America."
When working with an agency like Big Brothers and Big
Sisters of America, mentors do need to be at least 18.
Mentors don't need to be rich, nor do they need to have a
college degree. A mentor can be the 18-year-old who takes
his 7-year-old neighbor to the park to play basketball.
"A mentor is an adult who, along with parents, provides
young people with support, counsel, friendship,
reinforcement and a constructive example. Mentors are good
listeners, people who care, people who want to help young
people bring out strengths that are already there. As a
mentor, you can help connect children with the other four
America's Promise Fundamental Resources: safe places and
structured activities during non-school hours, a healthy
start, a marketable skill through effective education and
an opportunity to give back through community service.
Things that may seem easy or straightforward to you are
often mysterious to young people. That's why it can be
easier than you think to make a difference in a young
Whether or not there are agencies in your area working with
the National Mentoring Partnership, there are mentors.
"Mentoring--from the Greek word meaning enduring--is
defined as a sustained relationship between a youth and an
adult. Through continued involvement, the adult offers
support, guidance, and assistance as the younger person
goes through a difficult period, faces new challenges, or
works to correct earlier problems. In particular, where
parents are either unavailable or unable to provide
responsible guidance for their children, mentors can play a
critical role. The two types of mentoring are natural
mentoring and planned mentoring. Natural mentoring occurs
through friendship, collegiality, teaching, coaching, and
counseling. In contrast, planned mentoring occurs through
structured programs in which mentors and participants are
selected and matched through formal processes."
A student finds a teacher s/he can talk to. An athlete is
inspired by a coach. Natural mentoring works wonderfully in
some cases. At other times, it takes a more structured
"In 1904, a young New York City court clerk named Ernest
Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his
courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many
of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find
volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers
movement. By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities
across the country. At around the same time, the members of
a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who
had come through the New York Children's Court. That group
would later become Catholic Big Sisters. Both groups
continued to work independently until 1977, when Big
Brothers of America and Big Sisters International joined
forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America."
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is an established
agency that many people have heard of, but it is not the
only mentoring programs. Schools, churches, and other
community groups often recruit mentors to work with the
youth in their community; some of these organizations have
programs involving mentors under the age 18 who work with
younger students. Check what is available in your area.
"The number of mentoring programs has grown dramatically in
recent years. This popularity results in part from
compelling testimonials by people--youth and adults
alike--who have themselves benefited from the positive
influence of an older person who helped them endure social,
academic, career, or personal crises."
When a natural mentoring situation does not present itself,
it can be best to go through an agency. Whether looking to
FIND a mentor or BE a mentor, these organizations will meet
with all parties involved and work to find the best fit.
Additionally, since the process involves two strangers
spending time together, these agencies will also do
background and reference checks on all mentors that work
While these agencies and organizations work to match adults
(age 18 and older) who want to be mentors with children and
teens (ages 5 - 18) who are looking for a mentor, teens and
young adults who are looking for professional and academic
mentors have even more options.
"There are many different ways to find a great internship
experience. Many companies have well-established strong
internship programs. Others may have assorted positions
available as the need arises. However, it may be that you
can't find the position you're looking for. In this case
you can research and develop your own position. It takes
time and effort but an internship that is specifically
tailored to your own academic and career goals can be
better than one that is 'close enough.' "
Questions of the Week:
What situations can you think of where a person would
benefit from both being and having a mentor at the same
time? What qualities do you think a person would need to be
a good mentor? During what life situations would a person
benefit from having a mentor or being an intern? How would
you describe a healthy/ mutually beneficial internship or
mentoring relationship? How can those who are looking to be
or have mentors find each other in a safe way?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum