The following is a letter from Somerville resident Marty Martinez about National Mentoring Month. You can visit his organization, Mass Mentoring Partnership, at massmentors.org:
Resolve to impact your community – and yourself– through mentoring
The beginning of the year is a time when people make resolutions and think about things they want to improve in their lives. From exercising more to eating healthier to making a career change, people use the new year to make a personal goal or commitment they want to achieve. The new year is also when we celebrate National Mentoring Month and raise awareness about mentoring and its impact in our communities. January is a time to highlight the importance of mentoring for young people while also putting a spotlight on the need for more caring adults to step up and become mentors. At a time when people are assessing their lives and identifying ways to improve them, mentoring a young person is a valuable option for impacting the community and oneself.
This year’s National Mentoring Month theme is mentoring works. Research shows that the presence of a caring adult in the life of a young person helps prepare them for school, set them on a career track and develop important life skills. All of these things also help to prevent many of the challenges that young people can experience such as violence, substance use and bullying. Spending consistent, quality time with a young person makes a big difference in their life as it helps to give them guidance, support and a caring role model to look up to. What people might not realize is that mentoring actually impacts two lives. The impact for the young person is well-known but the difference that mentoring makes for the mentor is an unknown benefit to most. The experience of spending time with a young person, listening to them and building a friendship with them, makes a huge impact on an adult and enables them to both learn and be a part of new things while sharing their skills and life experiences. Mentoring works by impacting both the mentee and the mentor, and when you stop to think about it, most of us have benefited by someone who mentored us along the way.
As the CEO of Mass Mentoring Partnership and with over 15 years of experience in nonprofits in Boston, I personally know the impact that mentors and caring adults have made in my own life. Growing up in a single parent household with a mom who often worked two or three jobs just to support our family, mentoring was vital to my future path. As part of the first generation in my family to go to college and achieve things that others in my family never had the opportunity to experience, I remember those mentors who helped give me confidence and guided me down the right path. It was those caring adults that helped prepare me to go to college and think about the skills and lessons I needed to learn to get a job and plan for my future career. They helped me figure out my path and plant the seed that my interest in giving back to others could turn into a nonprofit career. Their support and guidance enabled me to figure out what my interests were, what my goals could be and what I could become.
My personal experience and life story proves to me that mentoring works. Professionally, there is so much we can do to help bring more caring adults into the lives of young people and give them that same chance toward a brighter future. Using National Mentoring Month to highlight this issue is a great time for all of us to think about what we can do to impact young people and support this important prevention strategy in our communities. As we start a new year, and reflect on those things we want to improve in our lives and changes we want to make, think about getting involved as a mentor and spending some quality time with a young person. Not only can it impact and improve our communities but it can make a big difference in your own life. Let’s resolve to invest our time, our energy and our resources to close the mentoring gap and ensure that every young person who needs a caring adult in their life has one.
Marty Martinez is the President and CEO of the Mass Mentoring Partnership and lives in Somerville, MA.