January is National Mentoring Month in the U.S., a good time to celebrate all that volunteer mentors can do to help youth succeed. By making time to develop an ongoing relationship with at-risk youth, mentors can help children:
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol;
- Get better grades in school;
- Develop self-confidence;
- Trust their teachers; and
- Set goals and raise expectations.
And while those are five good reasons to celebrate today’s mentors, with 5.6 million young people in the U.S. ages 16-24 neither in school nor working, more mentors are needed to help kids stay in school and on track for a good life. Mentoring relationships are about making basic human connections and letting a young person know that they matter. But young people are not the only people who benefit. Mentors often say that their relationships make them feel like someone who matters, too.
Travis Williams, a volunteer mentor through United Way of Northeast Florida, says that mentoring doesn’t take as much time as you think it will, and the only real skill you need is to be willing to listen. Diana Amatucci retired from teaching and realized she missed being around kids. She says that making a personal connection with the children is one of the biggest rewards of mentoring. Watch this short video to learn more about Travis’ mentoring experience, and read Diana’s mentoring story here.
Diana lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and on January 30th will participate in the 7th annual Mentor and Tutor Volunteer Fair hosted by United Way Thomas Jefferson Area. More than a dozen local organizations that work with children and families will meet with prospective volunteers who want to find the right way to share their time, talents and interests with children. The United Way in your area will be able to introduce you to mentoring opportunities as well.
As President Barack Obama says in his Presidential Proclamation celebrating National Mentoring Month, “When young Americans have the support they need to make the most of themselves, they can achieve their dreams and strengthen our country, which has always moved forward by extending ladders of opportunity to the next generation.”
I hope you’ll join Travis, Diana and other mentors in extending the ladder to the next generation by pledging to become a volunteer mentor – this month, or anytime you are ready to make a positive change in another person’s life, and your own.