Energizing youth: The importance of mentorship

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Growing up and even as an adult, mentors are a constant. Whether it’s in school or at work, the benefits of a mentor are vast. For youth, some benefits include higher graduation rates, healthier relationships, enhanced self-esteem and an overall better attitude about school to name a few. According to The National Mentoring Partnership, at-risk youth are 55% more likely to enroll in college if they have a mentor.

Mentoring youth during crucial times in their lives, especially in school and in sports, can lend itself to a more successful future. When a child feels they can come to an adult for advice on serious life events, they are able to build stronger relationships with others around them including peers and other adults. As we know, the feeling of having someone there for us during our toughest times is irreplaceable. Even at such a young age, kids have things they deal with in school and in their personal lives where they need advice.

It’s important for kids to have a mentor but it’s also important to have the right mentor for each kid. A good mentor maintains a consistent flow of communication with the child. It can be harmful to a child if a they lose a mentor after a short period of time. Mentors should be supportive, active listeners, motivational, authentic, judgement-free and lend helpful insights.

There are also different types of mentors. These include peers mentors or formal mentors. A peer mentor is someone who is at a similar level as you; for kids it would be classmate or teammate. Sometimes these relationships don’t feel like mentorships but often times can provide comfort through shared experiences and offer support at a more relatable level. However, peer mentorships can present competition or conflict especially when teammates or classmates are reaching for the same goals. It is important to encourage youth to maintain positive, healthy relationships with their fellow peers so they may grow together and foster healthy relationship building skills.

Formal mentorships are similar to what has been described in the introduction. These mentorships typically involve someone with different experiences than the child or someone who is more knowledgeable in the field or situation that the child is dealing with. These mentors are helpful in times when a child is seeking advice on important decisions where the mentor can impart wisdom from past experiences. The important thing to formal mentorships is maintaining consistency and strong communication. The more the child can communicate with the mentor, the greater the impact will be.

The choice for who mentors a child should be left up to them. It should be someone they trust, respect, and want to spend time with. Kids should initiate these mentorships on their own, and rely on their instincts of who they believe can provide the most help for their situation. Giving the child an opportunity to form a mentorship with someone they admire can lend itself to many successes in the future.