Why We Should Have National School-Based Mentoring

mentor minute crop

I believe in the power of mentoring.  If asked why, I am quick to tell people that at each critical moment in my life, there has been a mentor (either formal or informal) who provided guidance, opportunities or resources that helped me on my path.  To name a few:

  • My husband, Bernard, who was my main support system for graduating high school and finishing college when we met over 20 years ago.
  • My high school teacher who suggested that I major in Computer Science in college because I showed a natural talent.  I took her advice.
  • My computer science professor, Dr. Henry Harr of DePaul University, who provided one-on-one tutoring and mentoring and recommended me for a job at Accenture.  I enjoyed several years as a technology consultant.

Don’t Wait Until High School

The best time to reach students is in elementary school.  Mentors can help young children see how the knowledge they are gaining now will result in opportunities later in life.  Incorporating mentoring within the school day also provides the students with real-life examples of professions. I will never forget what a young TLP client said after an interview at Chicago Public Schools, “So, that’s it?  I was so scared.”  After his interview, he realized that the dramatic scenarios he saw on TV were not typical.  Many of our youth no longer have a diversity of professionals in their family or community to turn to for questions or examples of success.  Many amazing schools, like the LaSalle Language Academy in Chicago are able to achieve this exposure through an impressive level of parental engagement.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Providing National Funding Support for Mentoring

Implementing effective and stable mentoring programs requires resources:  funding, people, materials, etc.  There are non-profits who provide these services but they can not serve everyone.  The answer is to propagate, model and fund successful mentoring programs.  Mentoring/Tutoring programs need to propagate across all neighborhoods and within every school.  This is necessary because the needs within each community or socio-economic group may differ. While programs may begin with a model, they should be customized to offer the most effective solutions to the needs of their clients.

Representative André Carson from Indiana’s 7th congressional district introduced the Transition-to-Success Mentoring Act to establish a national competitive grant program targeted at at-risk youth in middle school. If the  bill passes, it would allow schools – on their own or through a partnership with a nonprofit organization – to pair at-risk youth with a qualified mentor to help the student navigate the transition from middle school to high school  and address other academic, social and emotional challenges along the way.  You can show your support by sharing Representative Carson’s statement and promoting positive outcomes from school-based mentoring programs.  MENTOR provided input on the design of this bill and is a proud supporter of the final, proposed legislation.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. -Anne Frank

How Am I Involved?

  • I am currently a mentor with Year Up Chicago.
  • I recently joined the Teen Living Programs Mentoring committee where we are in the early stages of exploring the needs of a mentoring program for our clients.  We are bringing in experts to gather best practices and conducting brainstorming sessions with supporters, staff and youth.
  • I recently met Dan Bassill of the Tutor/Mentor Institute and am in early conversations of how I can help him propagate mentoring/tutoring programs across Chicago, particularly in the underserved communities where youth are in most need of guidance.
  • I am considering attending the fourth annual National Mentoring Summit  in Arlington, VA in January 2014 and the Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago, November 2013.
  • I mentored interns within the Chicago Public School’s Finance Department.  All of my mentees have moved on to start their careers in growth roles in their chosen fields:  corporate training, business administration and accounting.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~Jack Welch

me and the ladies at TLP gala

Me and my mentees at the 2011 Teen Living Programs gala (L to R): Rachel, Me, Clentarra and Konstance.

Mentors hold up children’s dreams until they are strong enough to hold them up themselves. ~ Catherine Miller, Middle School Teacher

What You can Do

Find locations of youth serving organizations that you can join and support

These search tools will help you locate volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs in Chicago and other communities. 

Feel free to contact me at sherryclayton78@gmail.com with questions and remember to connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Categories: Leadership, Social

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7 replies

  1. I too, strongly believe we need to get children into mentoring programs early. The earlier they are put into a program, the less likely they are to get involved in crime related activity and they will have an adult they can confide in and trust.
    I believe if younger adolescence (17) would be able to become mentors, there would be many more volunteers and we wouldn’t have to have children waiting for a mentor. If that is not possible in certain communities, I agree with the national funding for the programs.. It’s great to see you fighting for a cause worth fighting for.
    Best of luck

    • Hi Hannah,
      I agree with the approach of having teens mentor youth (with training and guidance of course). It’s been shown that quality volunteering, especially mentoring is achieved when people are personally engaged.

      I think giving teens the ability to add their own unique value and positively influence another life is a strong pull in the right direction. If teens have first-hand experience with the benefits of mentoring that are much more likely to become mentors in the future. Afterall, they will not have be convinced.

  2. It is never too early for children to receive mentoring. In traditional African societies, children were usually mentored by the elders, especially uncles and aunts. Since times have changed, and our values seem to have changed with the times as well, we have to be purposeful in ensuing that each student is at least mentored by someone who will add value to the student’s life. While this may seem to be an option,at least for now, if we changed some of our values we may make it “almost mandatory” in order to ensure that we have larger, positive societal impact.

    • Eloquently said Njoroge. Melissa Harris-Perry commented that we no longer see children as belonging to the community and thus when their immediate support system fails, there is nowhere else for them to turn. This leaves them with limited options and vulnerable to negative influences.


      • Individual liberty has its own pros and cons. When the ideal is only “me”, “myself”, and ” I ” and not community, we pay a price in society over time. Philosophically, we get some “mentoring” somehow, the biggest challenge is who is mentoring who. For some, it peer mentoring and for others its individual mentoring, but the best mentoring is when you are mentored by someone who has been there, done that, and is wise and ethical is his/her ways of life.The wise are the few, and they are also in demand. That is why teachers ,parents and professors are so critical as they spend most of the time with the students in their early life. Kudos to you for being so involved in mentoring.

  3. I am the Exective Director of Be A Mentor, Inc. Started a Linkedin Group a couple of years ago to provide a space for dialogue among mentoring organization operators and mentors. Rich Greif posted the link to your site — what a great resource you provide. I would like to invite you to join the Be A Mentor Group – http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Be-Mentor-2203754/about

    I hope to hear from you.

    Best regards,

    Bob Goetsch
    (510) 342-7171

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for reaching out. It’s exciting to see the heightened focus on mentoring take place across the country. I will join the Be A Mentor Group LinkedIn group and share in any way that I can. Feel free to reach out to me in the future at sherryclayton78@gmail.com. You can also connect with me via twitter @Sherry563.

      Have a wonderful weekend.


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