“Any society that adequately invests in its youth, has also invested in its future” – Stephen Powell, Executive Director at Mentoring USA.
January 2015 marks the 14th Annual Mentoring Month for Mentoring USA. Mentoring USA began as the New York State Mentoring Program, led and founded by New York’s former first Lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo in 1987. The New York State Mentoring Program was created to decrease high school dropout rates and decrease teen pregnancy. In 1995 the program became an independent 501-(C)-3 organization and was incorporated under the HELP USA umbrella of service as Mentoring USA. The organization has grown to have a national and international reach serving youth in over 10 cities nationally with over 700 volunteers. Mentoring USA has also expanded internationally with their programs currently being modeled in South Korea, Italy and Spain.
Like so many before have experienced, growing up can be difficult, especially for children from broken families and disadvantaged backgrounds. Mentoring USA aims to support children aged 7-21, providing trained adult role models for youth in-need, to support them in making positive life choices and enable them to succeed in social, academic and professional environments.
Volunteer mentors are trained, screened and matched carefully with children in schools, community centers and foster care agencies. These programs cover several categories, some of which include; general mentoring, sport mentoring, foster care, LGBTQ youth and workplace mentoring. These programs are much more than a simple buddy systems. Stephen Powell, Executive Director at Mentoring USA describes one partnership that sums up the importance of the programs. “[A] Parent was informed by a teacher that they thought the child was a special needs student because he lacked focus in the classroom. The parent removed the child from the school and placed him in a school where Mentoring USA has a strong program presence. The child received a mentor and became an honor student at the top of the class within a year. The most touching reminder of the importance of mentoring came from the mentee who said ‘his mentor counted him in, when others counted him out.’”
Mentoring USA programs require a two-way relationship and often results in lasting friendships with rewards for both mentor and mentee. Youth need mentors in their lives for many reasons says Executive Director, Stephen Powell, “to help process information and choices coming at warp speed” and to “be a listening ear or a guide to process life’s decisions.”
Want to get involved or help out? Easy! There are loads of ways you can get involved for National Mentoring Month. Hop online to find mentoring opportunities in your community. By becoming a mentor you are not only changing a child’s life but the future of your community.
“Becoming a mentor has been such a rewarding and enriching experience for our volunteers that we have an 85% return of our Mentors.” – Stephen Powell, Executive Director at Mentoring USA
Become a Mentor http://www.mentoringusa.org/be-a-mentor/
Written by: Clare Delaney