A month of mentors:
January as time
of local focus
By Caroline Monday
January is the 7th Annual National Mentoring Month, an effort spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project, MENTOR and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
This campaign’s goal is to encourage adults to become volunteer mentors and work to help young people achieve their full potential. This year’s theme is “Share What You Know. Mentor a Child.”
Locally, Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson has issued a proclamation, naming January as Mentoring Month.
Western Youth Network (WYN), a local agency working to serve youth, offers community members a chance to mentor young people. The program matches youth, aged 6 to 17, with a mentor who serves as a friends and positive role model. The youth come to the program through referrals from other agencies, such as the Department of Social Services and the juvenal court system.
From left, Abby serves as mentor to Savannah. Photo submitted
WYN’s mentoring program has been operating in Watauga County since 1985 and in Avery since 2002.
The goals of the program include encouraging students in their school work, working to improve their attitudes toward adults and their peers, providing a positive way for youth to spend their free time and helping them overcome daily challenges.
The program can also offer the young people who participate an opportunity to consider career paths and to develop economic skills and knowledge.
Angela McMann, WYN’s mentoring specialist, said the agency’s program is the only mentoring program in Watauga County and one of the largest of such programs to be funded by the governor’s One On One grant program. She said the youth referred to be matched with mentors are “in need of companionship and role models, someone to get them out of being stuck at home.”
Through the mentoring program, these youth are able to experience things that many people take for granted, McMann said. Usual mentor/mentee activities include visiting local sites, like Grandfather Mountain, outdoor activities or going to the mall.
She said that the mentors find the experience just as rewarding as the young people they spend time with. “You get to see how another person and another family lives...it makes you appreciate what you were given and realize that you have something to give,” McMann said.
Individuals interested in becoming an mentor through WYN must be able to commit two hours per week for a year to spend with their mentee. For more information about the program, contact WYN at (828) 264-5174 or look online at westernyouthnetwork.org.
The first National Mentoring Month was held in 2002. The month is meant to draw national attention to the need for mentors and how individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and charitable agencies can work together to encourage community members to become mentors, and thus positively impact the future of young people.
MENTOR, one of the national organizations spearheading the project, encourages corporations and other businesses to sponsor mentoring programs in which the business partners with a local school and encourages employees to become mentors to students of that school.
These programs, MENTOR reported, can create employee loyalty, increase productivity ad build stronger ties between the business and the community.
Other ways an organization can help include the donation of in-kind gifts, sponsoring a mentoring event or providing leadership for local nonprofits running mentoring programs.
The campaign includes public service announcements featuring prominent Americans. General Colin Powell will speak on the importance of mentoring and how it can positively affect both the mentor and the child.
Recording artist Usher will relate the influence his mentor, music icon Quincy Jones, had on him in a PSA in which both of the men appear.
This year’s National Mentoring Month will also include the launch of the ReelPeople Project, in which mentor/mentee pairs will appear in national television PSAs. These pairs have been nominated by local organizations who host mentoring programs.
Thursday, Jan. 24, will be Thank Your Mentor Day, a day when Americans are encouraged to honor the individuals who had a lasting positive impact on their lives.
For more information about National Mentoring Month, look online at whomentoredyou.org.