Fast forward to today. That interaction with my mentor lit a fire in me and created a passion of paying things forward. For the past two years, I have been the co-lead for the 100 Black Men of NY’s Junior 100 program. Through this 16-week program, we provide high school students with college readiness tips and tools, a small glimpse into corporate finance, entrepreneurship, and how to create their own business plan. The scholars then create and present their own business plans in a “Shark Tank” style format. At the end of the program they receive a stipend, and we get the privilege to honor them with a cotillion ball.
What They See Is What They’ll Be
Having a mentor brings so many benefits. It allows the mentee to interact and learn about so many different things that you can’t always learn in a formal classroom setting; that’s what I meant by “outside the classroom” earlier in this post. For instance, if the mentee is interested in your line of work, you get the opportunity to allow them to shadow you, and learn hands on what a day in that field might look like. Overall it gives another pillar of support. “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction” – John Crosby. A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you than you see in yourself, and helps to bring it out of you.
Mentoring gives scholars confidence that there is someone who cares about them, it assures them they are not alone with their day-to-day experiences, and it reminds them that they matter.
Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful and positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and personal development, and social and economic opportunities.
Some statistics that show the benefit of mentoring:
- High levels of absenteeism (Kennelly & Monrad, 2007)
- Scholars who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class. (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)
- Recurring behavior problems (Thurlow, Sinclair & Johnson, 2002)
- Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor. (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)
- In addition to better school attendance and a better chance of going on to higher education, mentored youth maintain better attitudes toward school. (The Role of Risk, 2013)
Common Misconceptions of Mentoring
When I ask friends to be a mentor, some jump at the opportunity, while some have reservations about being a mentor. These are just some of the reasons that I have experienced:
- I am too young to be a mentor – Realize that being a mentor doesn’t have anything to do with age. It has more to do with being that support system and having the passion to instill knowledge. In fact as millennials, being younger allows us to relate with scholars more because they can feel comfortable talking to you about their experiences because they will feel that not too long ago you experienced the same thing.
- This student has everything going for them, they don’t need a mentor – Being a mentor doesn’t just apply to youth that seem to need help. A scholar could be doing everything right on the surface, but may not have someone to vent to, or just learn from. As stated above, mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. Sometimes, that could be all that they need.
- I don’t have time to connect to my mentee – We are in the technological age; mentoring can take care anyplace and anytime. Mentoring significantly contributes to personal and professional development of both the mentor and the mentee. It can prove to be a great investment of time and an opportunity one cannot afford to miss.
- The mentee is the only one that learns - Mentoring is a condition that arises out of an effective relationship. It takes time to build. Mentoring happens with trust and acceptance of each other. As a mentor, you tend to learn a fresh perspective. You get to learn by teaching. You challenge your own thinking. You re-establish and reconfirm what you already know by sharing with a mentee. Mentors broaden their network almost as often as mentees do. The old adage, “you get what you give” could possibly be amended to “you get more than you give” through mentoring.
In closing, I hope that more people can become mentors and seek mentors for themselves. Knowledge is truly everywhere and there are always people that are willing to share what they know. Steven Spielberg once said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” It is amazing how what one thinks is a basic interaction can open doors to things that are greater than yourself. Therein lies the beauty of mentoring.