The call is out! Now more than ever, our children and young adults need mentors and role models. Many people shy away from taking up the charge of mentoring because they feel they will not have the time. They are afraid that even one day a week, a couple hours a week donated to mentoring would be time away from busy careers. They also feel that mentoring on the weekend would take time from busy lives, social activities, and weekend commitments. But what we forget is that our every action and interaction each and every day in its own way provides a mentoring opportunity or a chance to be a role model impacting the life of someone who comes in contact with us.
I truly believe that the biggest role models and mentors for our children should be their parents, extended families, and teachers. But many times, our children are from single family homes where the one parent is not always available or they are sitting in classrooms that are filled with too many children all in need of the same attention. That is when they need our attention, love, and encouragement the most. They need to be lifted and shown that it is possible to achieve excellence and reach their dreams through hard work and perseverance. They need to be heard and see examples of the possibilities that life holds – sometimes even despite the circumstances In which they live. There are millions of children out here excelling in school and in their communities but their success and the fact that many do go on to achieve success in college is overshadowed by all of the coverage and attention that is given to those who succumb to drugs and criminal activities – that which is deemed most often by the media to be news worthy.
What about college students? We tend to forget that once they are there they still need our encouragement and support.Even facing the reality of rising tuition costs, massive student loans, and the difficulty in finding a job after graduation, students are still fight hard to get into colleges and universities in order to move even further towards achieving their dreams.
When I was working at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the president stressed how every employee was an ambassador for the campus and everyone needed to help support and encourage our students. Many of us who worked there willingly accepted that challenge and sought out every opportunity there was to participate in groups that mentored students either in groups or individually. We would often strike up conversations with students in the campus commons or at athletic events to learn more about what they were studying. Those students became friends and each time we saw each other on campus it became a mini-mentoring opportunity which they appreciated. Many of them I still remain in touch with to this day.
What about in the workplace? When you arrive at your office in the morning, do you take the time to speak to others that you encounter in the coffee room, the garage, at the receptionist desk – someone other than your immediate peers? How would you ever know that the receptionist works three jobs and is going to night school to complete his G.E.D. or perhaps she is working her way through college one course at a time? An encouraging word or sincere inquiry would go a long way to helping them keep that focus and motivation to succeed. Perhaps you worked your way through college and struggled to get to where you are today. Sharing that information would then make you a role model.
What is stopping you from being a mentor? As Chidinma said to me years ago before I met her “I have seen you on campus and would like to get to know you.” You never know who is watching you and who can learn from your experiences. We can all get to know each other a little better. Sharing the journey we have made and the things we have learned along the way is that easy to do. It costs nothing but pays us back in ways that cannot be measured!