When interviewing prospective mentors, I always asked why the person was interested in mentoring. The answers were almost always youth focused. People want to share what they have learned and be a friend to a young person. Rarely did these soon-to-be mentors have any idea of how much they would personally gain from this volunteer position. Experienced mentors report that mentoring changed their lives for the better. So, what do mentors gain from these relationships with young people?
First of all, there is a strong relationship between volunteering and positive health benefits. Volunteers have lower rates of mortality and depression as well as greater functional ability. Younger volunteers benefit by gaining skills and networking. According to Michigan State University Extension, volunteering can result in a feeling of satisfaction from changing a life or impacting a community.
Mentoring is a fairly time intensive and long term volunteer position. Mentors often give 1-2 hours a week for a year or more. The Corporation for National and Community Service found that the health benefits from volunteering increased when volunteers spent more time providing service. Additionally, mentors benefit from the relationship with the young person. Healthy relationships are important for everyone—they help us feel supported and valued. Mentors often feel more connected to the community and often find a greater sense of understanding and empathy for others. Many mentoring relationships continue beyond the time in the program. These long-term relationships allow the mentor to see the youth mature and see how the lessons they shared and the time they gave impacted their mentee. Despite the time commitment, 96 percent of mentors would recommend the experience to others. To find out how you can make a difference as a mentor, contact your local 4-H program or search for a program through MENTOR: National Mentoring Partnership.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).