The fragility of youth. It might seem a sappy approach to use, but I bring it up for an obvious yet often forgotten reason. Virtually everyone has a sense of fragility or insecurity when they are young and embarking on uncharted waters. We are all familiar with the anxiousness we felt, whether it’s entering a new school setting, competing in a sporting event or trying to find acceptance in a new social circle. Whether you’re that tough guy athlete or that seemingly sensitive music major, there’s always that lurking sense of insecurity and a need for guidance.
If a mentor emerges during these vulnerable states, they can provide a significant, positive impact. Whether by word, example, instruction — regardless of the approach — what counts is that they are there, and this is where a physical presence matters mightily.
A bit of context helps. Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership (Mentor) and the Harvard T.H. School of Public Health launched National Mentoring Month to focus on mentoring to help youths that need direction. This organization dedicates itself to instilling in all of us, individual, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits that they should play a role.
Even the most confident, sophisticated adult was not quite that composed in their youth. We constantly hear stories of how a teacher, peer or boss helped lift someone up by caring, sharing time, providing positive reinforcement and outlining a pathway for the future.
Let’s not forget that what we take for granted seems like a puzzle or a mystery to someone who doesn’t know. You can help remove the confusion in their eyes by being a mentor.
And there is another element that only you can discern. Young people might not even understand that they need or are yearning for a mentor. But if you have an alert eye or an appreciative ear, you will know. I suggest you reach out.
This begs the obvious question: Why is mentoring so important? One in three young people grow up without a mentor.
Young people who are at risk are in particular need of a mentor. If they have one:
55% are more likely to enroll in college.
78% are more likely to volunteer regularly.
90% are interested in becoming a mentor.
130% more likely to hold leadership positions.
To become a mentor, visit https://www.mentoring.org/ and they will help to connect you with someone who needs mentoring. You can also do it less formally by observing the youth around you. Those you need mentoring shouldn’t be too difficult to see if you look at your house of worship or social service organizations that offers such opportunities.
A special mentorship relationship belongs to Edgar and Ulises. He began to mentor Ulises after meeting him as a 6-year old at a community center. Eleven years later, they have shared 5K races, college applications and community services. For more of the story, visit https://www.mentoring.org/
I don’t know if there is a single word that explains why mentoring works, but I suspect it might be this one: caring. I have had the pleasure of being mentored by so many men and women who took the time to invest in me. I sincerely hope that the time they invested in me was worth it. I also know that because of their investment in me, I am obligated to reach back and help someone else. In fact, this weekend, I’ll be partnering with the Magnificent Men Mentoring Group to have breakfast with a group of young men in Burlington City and to encourage them to strive for greatness.
The life cycle of mentorship doesn’t end. Everyone needs to receive it and to share it. Take a moment and care. It will change someone’s life. And yours, too.
That’s my take, what’s yours?