Posts filed under ‘mentoring’

Back to School AGAIN (as a mentor)

For high school students, back to school is a wild time of year, filled with hope and expectations and anxiety about what the year will bring.  My husband Greg and I are feeling these feelings now. We are halfway through a 4-year committment to mentor a teenage girl (now young woman?!).  So “we” are entering our junior year — such a critical time — hoping the progress made so far sticks, and that our mentee “K” has a breakthrough year.  K shines in personality and intelligence; it is our job to help her focus on developing her academics and knowledge of the career landscape so she graduates on time and faces an exciting future of choices.

Before being introduced to Student-Sponsor Partners (SSP)and “K,” neither of us had mentored outside the workplace. We were wary about over committing ourselves and probably a little scared of teenagers. I mean we are old (at least to a teenager). We don’t work in hip industries. And we knew we likely wouldn’t share our mentee’s cultural background. But our outrage over the poor performance of NY City High School, our strong belief in the importance of education and SSP’s fantastic track record energized us to take the leap.   

Big Brothers Big Sistersmay be the best known national youth mentoring program.  At the same time, there are many mentoring programs targeted to specific aims which may be more appealing to you, especially if you are considering mentoring for the first time.  SSP and iMentor are both focused on helping at-risk students graduate and go onto college and productive careers. It is all about providing a wider sense of the world and the options education can afford.  iMentor heavily utilizes technology such as email to complement face-to-face interaction, to better meet the needs of busy professional mentors.  According to the org: “Of iMentor mentors, 70% have never mentored before, 52% do not participate in any other volunteer opportunity outside of iMentor, and 97% work in professional fields.”   

If the organizations in this post don’t make sense for you, try a simple google search for “Youth mentoring [insert your city or state here]” — you’ll likely find organizations for mentoring youth of different ages, specifically for school or  for career exposure or even for areas such as the arts.

Spending time with K and her friends has shown us just how limited many children’s experiences are, even when they live in a city filled with learning opportunities — and how directly and severely that experience impacts academic performance regardless of IQ.  It has also proven to us that this limited — or in some cases just different — frame of reference does not mean the child’s parents don’t care or aren’t involved. And it has shown us that if we have any hope of connecting with our own 7- and 3-year-olds when they are teenagers, we better keep mentoring; it is just too easy to forget what it’s really like to be one of those amazing and mysterious high schoolers. So, here’s hoping 2009-10 is our best junior year ever!


September 16, 2009 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

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