Make room for a Mentor

What's a Mentor?

A mentor is a person who uses his or her life experience to voluntarily guide, support and encourage another individual. Sometimes, a mentor relationship develops naturally—you don’t even realize that’s what’s happening. Other times, people seek out mentors in a more proactive way. People of all ages can benefit from having a mentor. Many adults find one to help with their career. But young people especially have a lot to gain from this type of bond.

Mentors are not meant to replace parents, guardians or teachers. They also don’t play the role of disciplinarians or decision makers. Instead, they become part of a team of caring grownups for that young person. By encouraging positive choices, promoting high self-esteem, supporting academic achievement, and introducing new ideas, mentors help teens develop into healthy, happy adults.

What are specific things a mentor can help a young person with?

  • Setting academic and/or career goals and taking steps to achieve them
  • Making healthy choices in everyday life: nutrition, exercise, social activities and beyond
  • Thinking through a problem at home or school

What makes a good mentor?

Just because someone is older, shares the same hobbies, or is interested in a young person doesn’t automatically make them a good mentor. Look for these qualities:

  • Trust: A mentor should never ask a young person to do something that the teen believes is wrong or say or do things that make the teen feel uncomfortable.
  • Talking: A mentor should share with the young person and encourage the young person to express him/herself as well. The main bond is between the mentor and young person. However, a mentor should be known by the parent or guardian and, if needed, communication between the two should be healthy and as open as possible—while not betraying the teen’s confidence.
  • Time: A mentor should be willing and able to spend time together on a regular basis.

How can someone get a mentor?

There’s a wide range of programs that specialize in matching young people with mentors, such as:

Mentors can also often be found by just looking around at the adults who already have an influence in a young person’s life, for example:

  • A teacher who gets along well with the teen
  • A local college student who enjoys being a “Big Brother” or “Big Sister”
  • An older relative who listens well and is trustworthy
  • A coach who encourages the teen to work hard and reach his/her potential
  • A longtime friend of a parent
  • A pastor or volunteer in a church youth group
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