In Real Life Blog Series: Mentoring “Moves” Young Students in the Right Direction

Paul Gerrard, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
July 28th, 2016
Posted In: Corporate Engagement, In Real Life

Mentoring can happen in moments big and small. This July, we’ll share resources, stories and tips that illustrate how you can pay-it-forward through mentoring and help youth build a foundation of knowledge as they embrace their journey to success.  This post shares information on how Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is helping kids build confidence and sense of self, ultimately supporting the creation of healthier generations to come.

By Paul Gerrard, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Many people who have led successful and fulfilling lives cite the fact that a mentor had a major positive impact on them when they were growing up. In fact, a recent Brigham Young University study shows that mentors can be pivotal in a student’s decision to go to college, which is the core foundation for a bright future. The study cites that for all teen students, having an adult mentor meant a 50 percent greater likelihood that a student would attend college.

Mentoring young students can happen in a variety of ways, however, depending on the child’s age, some tactics prove to be more impactful than others. One way Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are helping America’s youth is by combining mentorship with movement.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina – Putting one foot in front of the other

GOTR-Group-of-Girls(1)Girls on the Run is a physical, activity-based, positive youth development program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. Girls on the Run has councils in all 50 states and strives to nurture girls’ emotional, social, mental and physical wellness using a curricula developed specifically for girls in 3rd through 8th grade.

Through the support of scholarships, contributions and volunteers from six Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies across the U.S., local Girls on the Run councils are able to offer the 12-week program. While the program concludes with a 5K running event for the girls and their coaches, the program includes 24 sessions with their coaches, who are strong female role models teaching the girls how to build self-confidence, deal with peer pressure, and other valuable life skills.

“As a volunteer coach, working with the girls has reminded me of the importance of being connected to a supportive peer group – no matter what your age,” says Christy Colgan, manager of health and wellness at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Colgan, an avid runner, has coached several Girls on the Run teams. Her local program, Girls on the Run of the Triangle, is celebrating 16 years of changing lives of young North Carolina girls – 10,000 since November 2000.

Angel Iroha-Agwu is one of those girls. She completed her first Girls on the Run session when she was in 3rd grade and was so inspired through her early years in the program that she now is a junior coach helping out younger girls at her school.

“The accomplishment (of completing our first 5K together) reinforced that we could accomplish difficult challenges when we put our minds to it,” says Orieji Iroha-Agwu, Angel’s mom.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont – Creating a Safe Place

In middle school, many teen boys can begin to lose interest in traditional sports and gravitate toward more sedentary activities.

For nearly a decade, middle school boys in Vermont have had a safe place to discuss what it means to be a boy and gain exposure to positive activities that may influence lifelong decisions. In 2009, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) launched Velocity, an after-school program designed specifically for pre-teen and teenage boys that promotes health and fitness and facilitates a safe environment for discussions about everyday life.

Velocity encourages adventure and exploration by providing access to hiking, mountain biking, fencing and other sports. The six-week program includes sessions before each activity for the boys to meet with a mentor to talk about important issues. BCBSVT trains mentors and schedules the activities with experts to lead the boys in various sporting events.

“We have been very fortunate to have the Velocity program in our school for the past three years. It has filled a void for a number of boys who, for whatever reason, have not been involved in the traditional after-school activities. Through Velocity, I have seen these boys develop new friendships and a new sense of self, while experiencing fun activities that they may not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise,” says Dan Gratton, a long-time mentor from Crossett Brook Middle School in Waterbury, VT.

The Power of Blue – the power to make a difference

Our hope is that by helping kids and teens discover physical activities they enjoy in a safe and positive space, surrounded by strong adult mentors, they will carry those healthy habits and a positive sense of self into adulthood. Mixing movement and mentorship is one way the 36 BCBS companies are committed to creating healthier generations to come.

The collective support of BCBS companies partnering with and funding local and national initiatives to improve the health and wellness of all Americans demonstrates The Power of Blue – the power to make a difference with meaningful impact in the communities we serve.

To learn more about how BCBS companies are improving the health and wellness of members and their communities, view the report at


9 million young people in America are in need of a trusted adult in their lives to guide them in moments big and small. Join the In Real Life movement and become an advocate, make a donation or become a volunteer.

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