If Tom Osborne and Kent Pekel were to write a classified ad for mentors, it would probably read something like this:
Wanted: Regular Janes and Joes. Superheros need not apply.
Mentoring is one of the best ways to turn around lives, and prospective mentors need not be intimidated, said Osborne, Pekel and others at a luncheon Monday for the Midlands Mentoring Partnership.
The partnership serves as an umbrella organization for 12 mentoring organizations in Nebraska. The luncheon also honored the partnership’s mentor of the year, Amy Nelson of the Kent Bellows Institute, and its business advocate of the year, Creighton University.
Modest, short-lived positive interaction with at-risk kids can have a major impact in their lives, said Pekel, president of Search Institute, an organization that provides research-based guidance on turning around young lives. Being a successful mentor is straightforward: Be dependable and supportive, and treat young people with respect.
“We need to drop the search for the ‘caring adult’ and make this something regular people can do,” he said.
Osborne, former University of Nebraska football coach and TeamMates Mentoring co-founder, said the need is great and the payoff large.
Nationally, about a third of young people ages 8 to 18 cannot name an adult who is providing them positive guidance, Osborne said. Unemployed and unschooled 16- to 24-year-olds cost society about $93 billion annually, he said.
This is the nation’s greatest challenge, Osborne said.
“No great culture ever survived if the next generation can’t pull things together and carry on.”
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