In 2001-2002 a friend of mine worked to bring youth serving organizations and agencies in Reno County, Kansas together. As Director of YouthFriends, a youth mentoring program in county schools, she thought a National Mentoring Month in February was something we would all support. She was correct.
She prepared a Youth Mentoring Month Proclamation which was presented at a County Commissioners meeting the first of February for several years. The Girl Scouts provided cookies and several girls in uniforms to pass them out. Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, 4-H, YMCA and several after school programs were represented.
In 2005, President George W. Bush announced January as National Mentoring Month. We moved our events and proclamations up one month. Obviously we had a good idea. President Barack Obama has proclaimed January 2011 as Youth Mentoring Month. A good idea continues.
For many years I was a leader in the youth mentoring/developing young leadership profession. I know how important caring adults are to children and youth. At the same time, I understand the need to take care of self and not over commit ourselves so we can remain caring adults. Balance in all things is my mantra these days.
In December I was speaking with a young woman I have known since we moved back to Illinois. She is an Alderman in our city and a longtime friend to Girl Scouts. She mentioned she had not been able to find anyone to help her with a troop last fall. I only hesitated for a minute. The timing was right and I do know how to help with Girl Scouts. I volunteered to help her start the troop up again with the goal of finding other volunteers to continue with the troop. We met with the parents and our Girl Scout area professional. There are several possibilities among the parents.
The troop is registered with seven third graders. They have made Snowmen magnets for the local retirement center and sang songs and are selling cookies. The girls are all pleased to be at the meetings and they are looking out for each other already. We are making Valentines and practicing songs to sing for the retirement center residents. Sharing the responsibilities with my friend and the other parents lightens the amount the responsibility we have for these young ladies. I am delighted that all I have to do is help them organize the calendar, provide craft materials, sing and play games. We are having fun.
There are other opportunities to volunteer. Be a tutor for a student through your local school district. Volunteer with an afterschool program. Be a Big Brother or a Big Sister. Volunteer with a local Boys and Girls Club. Check in with your local Communities in Schools programs. Be a Sunday School teacher. Provide the home where your children’s friends want to hang out. Create your own opportunity to be a caring adult in a child’s life.
The difference you make in a life might be your own…….
Mentoring Youth has positive results and research to back it up. “Researchers at the Search Institute identified “adult role models,” “supportive relationship with three or more other adults,” and “adults in community valuing youth” as essential to youth’s health and well-being (Benson, et al., 1998) and access to “ongoing relationships with caring adults” constitutes one the Five Promises of the Alliance for Youth. Moreover, researchers working from within a risk and resilience framework have repeatedly called attention to the protective influence of supportive relationships with adults (Masten & Coatsworth, 1998; Garmezy, 1985; Werner & Smith, 1982). Rutter & Giller (1983) highlighted the importance of “one good relationship,” and Gamezy (1985) discussed the critical importance of significant adults in promoting the healthy development of highly stressed youth.” Rhodes (2001)
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