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The “Super Power” of Mentoring

Kerry H. Sullivan, President of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, MENTOR Board Member
February 11th, 2020
Posted In: Uncategorized

The “Super Power” of Mentoring

When meeting Omarina Cabrera, a young woman from the Bronx, one can’t help but be struck by her intelligence, poise and confidence. Omarina’s story which has been profiled on PBS, resembles many other youth in our communities – young people growing up as they navigate challenges such as poverty, fractured families, and the allure of independence found on the streets. What makes her story different – a hopeful narrative – is how her life was changed through the power of mentoring. The connection to a caring adult made all the difference. Through this on-going relationship, Omarina was able to make more informed decisions along the way and fully realized her power to achieve goals. This May, Omarina is graduating from George Washington University. She is a young leader on a path to success.

No one would argue that mentoring yields positive results. But let’s take a step back and look at how our view of mentoring has changed over the past ten years, due in large part to the Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR), a national organization committed to connecting young people to mentors. The facts are in.  Mentoring is an extraordinarily powerful tool to help young adults succeed – and we now understand more about the value of mentoring across a career lifetime. For us at Bank of America, we view mentoring as a critical and often secret sauce to help employees be successful, so that everyone can live up to their full potential. 

MENTOR released the Mentoring Effect in 2014 which identified the mentoring gap, notably that one in 3 young people do not have a mentor. The research also showed that young people who had mentors report setting higher educational goals and are more likely to attend college than those without mentors; young adults who had mentors, particularly those at-risk, are more likely to report engaging in productive and beneficial activities than youth without a mentor; and young adults with a mentor are more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities and pay it forward.

Originally this work focused on youth with a particular focus on those at risk, with a goal of closing the mentoring gap to ensure that every child has a caring adult in their lives. And this work continues. But today, when we think about diverse hiring practices, companies are leveraging mentoring expertise to ensure that new employees, including those from non-traditional backgrounds have the best chance to succeed. At the bank, we’ve worked with MENTOR to build trainings that help managers have a mentoring mindset. This work makes a difference, particularly for programs such as our Consumer and Small Business Pathways program through which we are hiring 10,000 individuals from low- and moderate-income communities we serve. 

Along this mentoring journey, we also learned that mentors need to be sensitive to the diverse and unique needs of all young people – including those with disabilities and those identifying as LGBTQ. We also recognize that mentoring plays an enormously beneficial role for youth and teens involved in the juvenile justice system. Ultimately with mentoring – best practices matter.  

So while advancing a movement around mentoring is critical to young people like Omarina as they navigate life’s challenges, we can leverage this tool to help individuals at every stage of their lives. At Bank of America, we’re committed to this journey, investing our philanthropic funding in nonprofits who advance mentoring, bringing our employee volunteers to the table, and encouraging our own employees to adopt a mentoring mindset. At a time when the needs continue to be great in communities, the role of mentoring is more important than ever. And as Omarina demonstrates so eloquently, each of us has an obligation to “pay it forward” with each additional mentoring relationship. So let’s celebrate the “Super-Power” of Mentoring and advance this work together.

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