by Kaysha Moreno, Extension Agent
Our youth are faced daily with many challenges from school to raging hormones to peer pressure and life as a whole. “Research shows that mentees usually perform better in their program and after they get out of school, than students without mentors” (W. Brad Johnson, PhD, a psychology professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of several books about mentoring.)
Research shows that Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.
- Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.
- Seventy-six percent of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. They are also more likely to be enrolled in college.
- Mentoring reduces “depressive symptoms” and increases “social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades.”
Finding a mentor is not always an easy task; many look to peers in their immediate surroundings, but often times they are misguided and usually tend to focus on immediate matters and short-term assignments rather than career goals and how to achieve them. I’m not saying that this is in anyway wrong, but short-term mentoring is usually due to misguided advice given to the mentors or the fact that they have a strong sense of feeling like “I am not mentor material.” So what is mentor material? Being a mentor does not mean you have to know all the answers, and it does not mean that you have to be at the pinnacle of your career. You already have more to offer than you think. Being a mentor requires attentiveness, commitment to meeting with the mentee and sticking with it. You will find that you will get just as much as you give, if not more. If you’re interested in being a mentor, keep these key points in mind:
- Be open to sharing. Yes, you need to listen, but also be willing to share. Your ups and downs will help your mentee navigate their challenges. There is no perfectly smooth ride in anyone’s career. Be willing to share your mistakes and failures, those are great lessons for your mentee as well.
- Be Committed. If you are helping someone, you must be committed to doing so and to putting in the time to make the relationship work, for the long term.
- Have Integrity. You must be respected and respectable to be a good mentor. Be an honest person. It’s the way to be – even if you’re not a mentor!
- Be engaged. Hey, you can’t be a mentor just because it “sounds” like the right thing to do. Be present in the life of your mentee. This will be a personal relationship with give and take, a lot of listening and a lot of support.
I’ve often advocated learning from successful people in your life or field. Watching how your heroes operate and dissecting how they communicate is a great learning tool and a great way for you to be a better leader yourself. Mentoring is about being transparent and revealing your best self. It’s about finding your best voice and learning what not to share and exactly what to share if you want someone to be just as successful as you, if not better. Meenoo Rami gets it perfect in “Thrive” when she describes her many mentors and how they’ve each played a distinct role in her growth as an educator. In the book, she lists:
- The mentor who helps me see what’s possible in my practice.
- The mentor who dares me into new work.
- The mentor who helps me fine-tune my instruction.
- The mentor who helps me find community.
- The mentor who helps me see what’s possible in my writing life.
- The mentor who helps me share my work publicly.
- The mentor who helps me stay balanced.
These folks range from her principal, to a highly regarded author for English teachers to in-school colleagues, to her sister. That’s exactly how mentoring works in real life!
Mentoring provides meaningful and necessary connections that impact the people involved in a great way. For those who are being mentored, the impact shows in academics, socially and economically. For those doing the mentoring it can build management skills and leadership skills, it can expand your professional network, and it also provides the great feeling of empowerment by giving back to the community.
There are many ways to get involved and mentor in your community. Here at West Virginia State University Extension Service we are dedicated to the future of our communities. We have many mentoring opportunities from 4-H mentoring, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), agriculture, etc. If you are interested in being a volunteer for any of these programs, please contact WVSU Extension Service. But your options are not limited to just WVSU. Perform an online search for volunteer opportunities in your area and you will have an array of options like Americorps, Big Brothers Big Sisters, YWCA, and many, many more.
At a time of great social need for our youth, why not be that person that will inspire change and teach life lessons that will help the youth succeed in life.