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
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.
- MENTOR resources and referral service – http://www.mentoring.org/program_resources
- ServeIllinois – http://www.serve.illinois.gov/
- VolunteerMatch – http://www.volunteermatch.org
- Illinois Mentoring – IMP is the unifying champion for quality youth mentoring in Illinois.
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