January offers new beginnings. We typically go into a New Year with a fistful of resolutions to better our lives; most focused on our own personal development. But what about bettering the lives of others? What about serving as a “life guide” for someone else? January is National Mentoring Month and the perfect opportunity for you to encourage a teen to become a better friend, listener and ultimately, better person.
One in three youth will grow up without a mentor. And, we know that being mentored is a game-changer for youth development. According to www.mentoring.org, young adults who were at-risk for falling off track but had a mentor are:
55% more likely to enroll in college
78% more likely to volunteer regularly
130% more likely to hold leadership positions
Mentoring has been proven to help youth better express their feelings, improve school grades, expect more from themselves, get along better with others, and become more involved in enrichment programs and afterschool activities.
But mentorship isn’t just one-sided. In fact, there is a shared growth between the mentor and mentee! According to Youth.gov, some benefits for mentors include: Increased self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment and increased patience and improved supervisory skills (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.). Teens who can’t seem to find their fit in their normal, everyday lives may discover their sense of belonging by leading others. And here’s the good news, mentoring opportunities are on the rise!
Mentor opportunities exist in all shapes and sizes and in most community-serving organizations. Simply look at the schools, churches, and YMCAs in your neighborhood and you will find a plethora of prospects where the teen in your life can participate in service projects, field trips, tutoring, community-based events or even just provide a listening ear to a younger sibling or neighbor.
You can even inspire teens in your life to become a mentor. This opens up holistically-nurturing opportunities that support their development and the development of those they mentor. Guiding others helps teens and the younger children they mentor reach their full potential in school and life. Here are five easy ways teens can become mentors this year:
If the teen in your life enjoys watching or playing sports, most YMCAs or recreation centers need volunteer coaches for summer, winter and fall sports. If they choose to volunteer, talk to them about modeling good behavior, nutrition, patience and how to be a good listener to younger children.
Does your teen excel in a specific area of study like math, science or history? Check with your local school district, youth volunteer organizations or Y afterschool program for tutoring opportunities for your teen to share their knowledge and build relationships with younger students who may not have a mentor at home.
If old enough, encourage your teen to think about finding a summer job where they can be a counselor. Or, if your teen isn’t old enough, most day and resident camp programs have Counselor in Training programs that provide teens with the training and skills to understand and take on the responsibility of becoming a leader to younger campers.
Traditional peer mentoring programs
Like those found at your neighborhood Y or through www.mentoring.org, these quality programs connect teens with younger youth and help ensure that the mentoring relationships are safe, effective, and well-managed to produce positive outcomes for the young people involved. Together, mentor and mentees can participate in community-based activities.
Informal mentoring relationships
Initiated by either the mentor or mentee, these bonds stem out of common interests and may last a lifetime. Encourage your teen to be on the lookout for the opportunity to become a great listener and advice provider to a neighbor or a younger sibling or family member.
For information about mentoring opportunities in your community, visit http://www.ymca.net/education-leadership.
Jorge Perez is VP of Youth Development, Family Enrichment and Social Responsibility for YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for 2,700 Ys across the country. With an emphasis on holistic development and a cradle-to-career framework, Jorge oversees the implementation and scaling of programs that help all youth succeed in school and life.