Connecting the dots during National Mentoring Month

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 9.52.56 PMby Marty Martinez

January is National Mentoring Month, and programs all across the country celebrate the incredible impact mentors have on the lives of youth every day. As program leaders, we know the role mentors play is critically important in ensuring that the young people we serve have a caring voice, a listening ear and a gentle nudge by their side. National Mentoring Month is a great time to both celebrate the service of mentors everywhere and to raise awareness about the nation’s dire need for more caring adults to fill these roles. The month of January, however, should not just be a time for programs to spend resources, commit time and devote energy to showing mentor-appreciation but it is also a time to connect the dots. We know clearly that the best advocate and recruiter for a program is a satisfied, recognized and well-supported mentor. One who not only feels good about what they are doing but also sees the bigger picture and understands the impact mentoring is making in communities.

At a time when programs report a greater need for volunteers and yet face a reduction in available resources, it is critical that mentors who give their time, their energy, and their commitment to assisting youth feel our appreciation while understanding their vital impact. Our mentors can help us tell the story of their impact and show the success our programs are having within families, in schools and within the community at large. Mentors must not only be told they are appreciated but they must feel celebrated every month of the year and they must be included as an important part of our system of public education and awareness.

The success of mentoring cannot always be felt right away and sometimes a mentor may not be present to see the eventual effect of their efforts. But as program leaders we must use every chance we have to celebrate the successes we see, to discuss the measurable impact and speak of the difference we know we our mentors are making.

Mentors must be able to feel good about their contribution and simultaneously they must be a strong voice for the bigger picture work we are working toward. We want mentors to tell their neighbors, colleagues and families about their cherished moments with their mentee at a baseball game. A successful school visit. Improved school work. Improved attitudes.

We invite mentors to talk openly about our success stories and about the larger impact that mentoring programs are having. Mentors are the front line people in our efforts to strengthen our communities and their stories serve to invite the collective action we are seeking. Celebrating and supporting mentors is critical to the success of any program but educating them and empowering them to tell the bigger story is key to longterm sustainability.

As we go through National Mentoring Month, let’s thank all of those men and women who give their time and energy at their local youth center or place of worship or neighborhood school or out in the community. Let us make sure they know they are celebrated and appreciated and lets be sure to confirm for them the bigger impact they are making and the important piece of the foundation they are helping to build.