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The importance of mentoring

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

— Benjamin Franklin

January is National Mentoring Month, focusing on how we can all work together to increase the number of mentors to make sure young people in our communities have dependable people to look up to and follow in their footsteps.

The goal of this designation is to raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms, recruit individuals to mentor, and promote the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage in mentoring.

One in 3 young people are growing up without a mentor outside their family. This is the mentoring gap in America. That’s 9 million young people without a mentor outside their family. The Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership founded National Mentoring Month in 2002 because this is a critical component in young people’s lives, helping them make the decisions and connections that lead to opportunity.

At its core, mentoring guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet 1 in 3 young people will grow up without this critical asset, according to mentoring.org.

For example, Big Brothers Big Sisters, as the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network, has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life.

The group makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), to develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

According to Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup’s education division, successful students had one or more teachers who were mentors and took a real interest in their aspirations, and they had an internship related to what they were learning in school.

Students who were successful got as much applied, hands-on experience as possible, whether in a classroom or on a job site. Schools, colleges and training centers had close partnerships with employers, industry groups and skilled trade groups to stay up to date on job-relevant skills.

Regionally, we see these successes through our community college-industry group-education group partnerships. Today, businesses want employees out of college or technical schools who are as ready to hit the ground running. This encourages the need for more employer-educator partnerships.

At a time when much of the focus is on what divides us, MENTOR research shows that there is something the majority of Americans agree on: Mentoring relationships are powerful tools for connection and are critical to our country’s future. Americans are overwhelmingly crossing racial, economic and other bridges to mentor young people outside their families.

Paying it forward allows us to be a part of the success of others. We need to share our knowledge, giving to others what was freely given to us.

* Guest editorial from the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss.