The month of January is synonymous with new beginnings. It is the start of a new year, perhaps the start of new fitness routines and other personal goals that we intend to stick to and reach because we called them resolutions. All share the same hope of sending our lives on another trajectory, in a different direction than the path we traveled in the previous weeks, months, or year.
What may be lesser known is that January is National Mentoring Month; a time committed to equipping young people with mentoring relationships and growth opportunities everywhere we live, learn, work, and socialize.
Do you remember who you were before you turned into who you are today? Before the choices you made? Before those that cared and believed in you along the way? What if they had not and you never learned to believe in yourself? You would be like the 9 million (1 in 3) young people who will grow up without the critical impact of a mentor.
Research confirms that mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects in a variety of areas including education, employment, interpersonal skills, relationships, and self-esteem. Young people, especially those with disabilities, need the opportunity to be connected to peers and role models with similar experiences to help them learn how to be an effective voice for their needs and transition into adulthood.
“Being mentored in my teenage years has definitely had a positive impact on my life! As a young boy growing up, I can say I’ve had my fair share of being in trouble. I honestly think I would’ve continued down the wrong path later in my life if I didn’t have the guidance from my mentors to keep me focused and keep me determined on the all the goals I’ve wanted to accomplish. I’m so appreciative I had the chance to have guidance from a mentor. It has made me into the young man I am today, holding a general manager position at one of my first jobs!” – AH (Mentee), Albany, NY
Mentors also experience benefits by gaining personal and professional skills/satisfaction, connection to a network, and a deeper understanding of societal issues. As we create space for young people with disabilities to be mentored by peers with disabilities and similar life experiences, we continue to grow and build our movement and increase the opportunities and success of those in our community.
“Growing up as a young person with a disability and experience in the mental health system, I constantly had to fight to overcome barriers. With each new battle there was a lesson learned, but never any support. At least not in the way I needed it. Looking back on my life, I can pinpoint many moments where things could’ve changed for the better had the supports existed in my life.
When I became a mentor, I became a part of a family. Not only was I supporting my younger peers in this crazy journey we call life, but I was also supported through mine as well. I learned more about myself and built my own network of support. To this day I have the card given to me when the mentoring coordinator attended my college graduation and supported me as I pursued goals of my own. I never expected that (becoming a mentor) would spark a journey that would forever change my life.” – BG (Mentor), Troy NY
There is still time to join the celebration as January 29th is thank your mentor day. Show gratitude for the mentors in your life by posting on social media using the hashtags #ThankYourMentor, #MentoringAmplifies, and #MentoringMonth. You can also take the celebration to the next level by beginning your path to mentorship. To do so, go to https://www.mentoring.org/take-action/become-a-mentor/ and find opportunities near you.