2017 Greatest Hits #9: Changing The Community, One Mentor At A Time

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Stephanie Korteweg

When I used to think of the word “mentoring,” I used to get this instant mental image of a Big Brothers and Big Sister’s commercial.  Almost immediately my next thought was, “I don’t have enough time, and what in the heck would I do if I became a mentor?” We all sometimes have this sort of knee jerk reaction to things that are out of our comfort zone. Think for a moment about a time when you did something that caused you a little fear, whether it was something adventurous like skydiving, or trying something new like a new job or becoming a parent. Sometimes the things that cause us insecurity and a little bit of fear are some of most intrinsically rewarding experiences that we talk about for years.

Let me ask you a question… how did you learn the things you know today? What person taught you those things? Who taught you how to change a tire, write a resume, how shake hands. Who was there for you during a difficult time in your life? If you think about it long enough you will probably think of several people who helped you when you needed it. Maybe they gave you advice, or maybe their presence made you feel like you weren’t alone.

I think the biggest barrier to becoming a mentor is the definition of “mentoring” we carry around in our heads.  We need to put aside that old rigid framework–you know what I’m talking about. It’s the one that leaves you feeling overwhelmed before you begin.  I think it’s time we start looking at what mentoring really is — an intentional investment in a person’s life, particularly a young person’s life.

And, what if I were to tell you that mentoring is one way we can help transform our community?

I’ve been a part of a mentoring group called the Mentor Coalition for the past five years. As soon as I joined I realized that the mentoring opportunities here are as diverse as our community. We have organizations that require a relatively low time commitment and others with a substantial time commitment. There are mentoring organizations that focus on high school students, others that focus on elementary students. Some are highly structured programs, others are a lot more flexible in their structure.  In the Mentor Coalition each organization does their part, working together like the gears in a bike, to see our community changed for the better.

A study from Child Trends called “Mentoring: A Promising Strategy for Youth Development,” showed that “overall, youth participating in mentoring relationships experience positive academic returns, better attendance, an improve chance of continuing on to higher education, and better attitude toward school.”

Another study, The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School, Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Costs for Taxpayers,” states “The incidence of institutionalization problems among young high school dropouts was more than 63 times higher than among young four-year college graduates.”

There’s a correlation between the success of the youth of our community and health of our community. I’m not just talking about the old Michael Jackson song here, but the children really are our future. They are the future entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, social workers, police for our community.

Our American mentality looks for the quick fix. We are in the age of instant gratification, and we have forgotten about the simplicity of consistency, the power of a smile and the impact of an encouragement.

I was recently speaking with a truancy judge and she told me a story of a family that had been in to see her several times. By the third time she asked to see only the kids in her office. As she sat there with the kids, she pulled an alarm clock from her desk drawer. She gave it to the kids and showed them how to use it. I remember her telling me how inadequate that action felt to her and how she really wanted to do something more. I asked if she’d ever seen the kids back in her court.  She paused, thought about it for a minute looked back at me and said, “actually, I haven’t seen them since.”

Don’t discount the small things. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from investing in a kid’s life. Don’t believe the lie that your small investment won’t make an impact. Join more than 800 other individuals in our community who are making an impact by mentoring- go to our website and get involved!

The Mentor Coalition is a group of representatives from mentoring agencies that serve young people in the Greater Waco area. These organizations work with local schools and families to provide necessary academic and social support to our area’s youth. The goal of the Coalition is to double the number of people who are currently mentoring in Waco to a total of 2,000 mentors! Please visit http://www.prosperwaco.org/mentor-coalition/ for more information on how to become a mentor. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.



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