Who has had a lasting impact in your life? Who do you credit with helping you get to where you are today?
Maybe it was a teacher, an older sibling, a coach, a neighbor, a manager, or an extended family member.
For Antong Lucky, it was a pastor who believed in his potential to make a difference. “You have a voice,” Pastor Omar Jahwar said. “If you come to me, I can’t make you wealthy, but I can make you count.”
Lucky was leading a life of crime, drugs, and violence when he started the Dallas chapter of the Bloods, a notorious gang, and ended up in jail. Once he was released, Lucky joined Jahwar and went right back to his community — this time to stand up against the toxic environment of violence and crime.
That’s the power of a mentor.
The Impact of Mentoring
If you ask someone about their success, you’re likely to hear about an influential mentor. Whether it’s professional, personal, or spiritual, mentoring is often a catalyst for growth and accomplishment. Regardless of the context, mentors offer steady support, hope, wise guidance, experience, and critical encouragement.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living — if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
It’s no surprise that research consistently proves the positive, long-term benefits of mentoring. Particularly for youth, a healthy mentoring relationship can be critical to achieving both academic and personal goals. Studies point to increases in confidence and performance as well as decreases in risky behavior in students who are mentored.
- Girls with a mentor are two and half times more likely to be confident in their academic performance. Boys with a mentor are three times less likely to suffer peer pressure and anxiety, and two times less likely to develop negative behaviors.
- A mentor increases a student’s likelihood of attending college by 50 percent. Teacher mentorship nearly doubles the odds of a student attending college.
- Youth in a mentor program are 46 percent less likely to use drugs and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol.
Mentoring can improve academic performance, school attendance, graduation rates, and attitudes. But, the power of a mentor runs deeper than numbers may indicate. Messages of empowerment — “I believe in you,” “you’re worthy of this opportunity,” “I think you have what it takes,” “it’s okay to try and fail,” — help recognize and unleash a student’s potential, which can change the trajectory of a life.
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor
Why You Should Be a Mentor
If those aren’t reasons enough to considering mentoring, mentors also benefit from investing in others. Increased self-esteem, well-being, fulfillment, and accomplishment are common positive outcomes for mentors. Consider these five benefits of mentoring others.
Help someone realize their potential. We all have unique talents and gifts. Activating the potential in someone by celebrating their talents empowers them to improve their own life, achieve their goals, and help others.
Give back to your community. The most impactful way to improve your community is to spend time investing in it. Mentoring youth in your community is a powerful way to invest in the next generation.
Learn more about yourself. Meaningful relationships are a two-way street. Learn more about your strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, experience, and beliefs by sharing them with someone else.
Change someone’s life. An intentional relationship has the power to alter a person’s life – particularly youth – for the better. You may be the only stable, positive impact in a youth’s life. The ripple effect is tremendous.
Become a better leader. Investing in the life of someone else challenges your perspective, sharpens your interpersonal skills, and exposes you to different decision-making approaches. Mentoring gives you the opportunity to learn by doing.
Recognizing the importance of empowerment, many of our Catalysts incorporate mentoring and coaching opportunities in their programs.
- Urban Specialists mentors youth in communities plagued by gang violence, crime, and drugs. By invading the lives of at-risk youth, they reverse destructive messages of urban culture.
- Milwaukee Rescue Mission offers a tutoring program and teen center for youth. Students receive a meal, hear a Bible story, and are paired with a mentor who helps them with school work.
- Defy Ventures offer entrepreneurs-in-training executive coaches and business mentors to provide personal support and business guidance. Coaches and mentors offer more than expertise – they provide encouragement, resources, and hope.
- The Woodson Center’s Violence Free Zones (VFZ) train peer mentors as part of their effort to reduce youth violence. Mentoring is vital aspect of the program’s measured success in improving academic performance and decreasing violence.
- Strive provides one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to at-risk youth in LA. In an academy-par learning environment, Strive promotes character building and values through the support and care offered by mentors.
- Operation Dream trains mentors to invade the lives of at-risk youth in Milwaukee, particularly boys without a father figure. Mentors are trained to get involved and stay involved, providing the stability these at-risk teen boys need to make positive life choices.
- Cara not only helps students find and retain a job, but also sticks with them through the first year of employment to help navigate common workplace obstacles.
- Chrysalis’ employment specialists work closely with clients to provide ongoing support and encouragement through the employment process and beyond. The case management model helps provide clients with support necessary to stay employed.
Think back to that question – who has helped you get to where you are today? One of the most effective ways to give back to your community is not necessarily money – it’s time. Consider how you can invest in the future of someone in your community. If you’re interested in volunteering with a Catalyst in your area, let us know through our get involved page.