February 24, 2009

Mentoring Benefits Everyone

I was a teacher for 5 years. Prior to that, I worked in different non-profit organizations where the focus of the organization was education or youth services. I still work in education, but not directly with youth, and I miss it! It’s just one of those things that happens, especially in the current economy, I moved, I found a job, and I kept it for fear of not being able to find another one quickly.

However, with this new position, I have a lot of free time after work, time where I can go to the gym, watch TV, read a book, or, another option I recently discovered, mentoring. It wasn’t hard to find an organization looking for mentors and coaches. Especially because of the economy, there is a greater need for volunteers. Many are struggling since most of their funding comes from these companies that are crumbling in the recession.

There are many students and young people that benefit from this relationship. Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to relate to the students and that I didn’t have anything to “give” them as a mentor, but once we started talking and they brought in their work and questions, I quickly realized that by just talking to them and supporting them, I was being helpful.

There is always a need for mentors; especially with the cloudy future for securing scholarships and loans for college student being what it is, these students need all the support they can get. Mentoring organizations are all over the U.S., and you don’t need to be a mentor through an organization. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes the relationship between mentor and mentee is not specified, but it is something that just happens out of necessity. If you have some free time, this is a great way to impact someone else’s life.

The mentee doesn’t have to be a total stranger; it can be a family member, neighbor or someone from a community center. Try to remember what it was like for you as you were growing up and ask yourself, if I had a mentor, would my life have turned out differently?

This post was written by Matthew Reid, volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. A native New Yorker, Matthew now lives in Boston and works for a math curriculum development company.

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