Celebrating National Mentor Month
A mentor is like a breathing handbook for growing up; teaching
mentees task-solving, ambition, confidence and respect.
Though mentorship success stories are often related to education, national and local programs have shown that proactive mentoring is as simple as educated friendship.
January is the 12th annual National Mentoring Month, named in order to recruit volunteer mentors for young people and well suited for New Year’s resolutions.
President Barack Obama created the Corporate Mentoring Challenge, which he said “encourages businesses across our country to open or expand mentoring programs that equip our youth with the tools to achieve.”
On Friday, Jan. 11, Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson released a proclamation naming Jan. 24 as “Thank Your Mentor Day.”
Clawson was mentored by her mother’s strength and Valle Crucus teacher Lucile Wallace’s thrill for beauty, she said.
“It’s important that at least once a year we bring community awareness of this program,” Clawson said.
She praised the Western Youth Network’s mentoring program and said that after her retirement later this year, “I may come up and be a mentor, too.”
The Western Youth Network, located at 155 WYN Way in Boone, matches mentoring adults with children. Mentors spend at least two hours per week for a year with their mentee.
Currently, WYN has a waiting list of 24 boys and 12 girls.
“We need all kinds of people,” mentoring director Angela McMann said. “If you’re unconventional or have little experience, you might have a special skill set for a deaf child, or a child with Asperger’s, or one from a particular environment.”
Last year, 87 percent of the children received a positive behavior change report from their parents, and 100 percent of current youth surveyed reported that their mentor made them feel good about themselves and helped them to do better in school.
“Mentors eat lunch with the child at school, pick up the rural kids and take them into town, tutor them with the teachers, introduce them to new things,” McMann said. “That alone will boost their attendance and interest in school.”
WYN conducts a four-step interview before adding mentors to the group – a personal interview, talks with four supplied references, federal background screening and a three hour training.
Referred by the school system, therapists or mental health institutions, WYN visits children at their home to find out why they want or need a mentor and to understand their family situation before making the match.
In 1985, locals became concerned by the number of young people being sent out of the county for correction or therapy after deviancy. Then-Gov. Jim Hunt addressed the wide-spread issue by initiating a grant for applying counties with the same problem. Watauga County received the grant, and WYN began.
Since then, the drop in crime and raise in school grades and attendance have exponentially grown.
If a person is interested in mentoring but does not have the time or ability to commit, the WYN hosts a collaborative group that meets at the health department once a month.
The collaborative discusses ways to influence on a large scale, such as at pregnancy centers and food dives, as well as on a personal scale.
“Mentoring inherently happens at your church, neighborhood and the grocery store,” McMann said. “Everybody’s a role model.”
WYN is holding an essay-writing contest, beginning with the words, “Mentoring Matters,” that will close on Jan. 25. The essay must be no longer than 300 words and should tell the story of a mentor’s impact on the writer’s life. The first-place winner receives a $50 Mast General Store gift card, and second-place receives a $25 Walmart gift card.
For more information on WYN or the writing contest, visit http://www.westernyouthnetwork.org, or call (828) 264-5174.
Appalachian State University’s peer mentors are upperclassmen who befriend and assist incoming freshmen through ASU’s Multicultural Student Development.
For more information on their monthly meetings or to apply to be a mentor or mentee, visit http://multicultural.appstate.edu/get-involved/peer-mentor-program, or email (email@example.com)
Local businesses that support National Mentoring Month are Stick Boy Bread Company, the Local Lion (offering 10 percent off if you tell them about your mentor), Come Back Shack (let them know you are there for the mentoring program), McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King.
For more information on national mentoring initiatives, visit http://www.serve.gov/mentor.