Being a Mentor
Mentoring is a development strategy for a youth’s successful path to adulthood. In a structured mentoring program, a supportive individual works with a youth to build a relationship by offering guidance, support, and encouragement to cultivate the youth’s positive and healthy development. Often, mentoring programs are designed around specific goals, such as academic achievement, career preparation, and behavior modification.
Mentors should understand they are not meant to replace a parent, guardian or teacher. A mentor is not a disciplinarian or decision-maker for a child. Instead, a mentor echoes the positive values and cultural heritage parents and guardians are teaching. A mentor is part of a team of caring adults.
A mentor's main purpose is to help a young person define individual goals and find ways to achieve them. Since the expectations of each child vary, the mentor's job is to encourage the development of a flexible relationship that responds to the mentor's and the young person's needs.
By sharing fun activities and exposing a child to new experiences, a mentor encourages positive choices, promotes high self-esteem, supports academic achievement and introduces the young person to new ideas.
A mentor may help a young person:
- Plan a project for school;
- Set career goals and start taking steps to realize them;
- Make healthy choices about day-to-day life, from food to exercise and beyond; and
- Think through a problem at home or school.
If you think you'd make a good mentor, we have lots of information about the many opportunities available. And because mentoring programs are concerned with the well being and safety of youth and volunteer mentors, you should be aware that it may take some time to be matched with a youth.
In joining a formal mentoring program, you probably will be asked to go through an application process. As part of that process, you will supply personal and professional references, most likely have a background check performed and complete a personal interview. Also, remember that the role of a mentor comes with substantial responsibilities, so you will be required to take part in an orientation and training. Throughout your mentoring relationship, be sure to seek support from the program coordinator.