In interviewing community agencies for the “Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” Bob George and I found that mentoring is one of the primary community processes that helps our youth move forward in their lives.
Recently, I had the pleasure of friends accepting my invitation to become mentors with the YoungMoms’ organization. They are women, who have recently retired and have rich family and professional histories. They spoke about their desire to volunteer, but wanted something that would involve them more deeply in the community. They also found that signing up to become a YoungMoms’ mentor together, they have been able to support each other in the process and deepen their friendship; a reward they didn’t expect.
YoungMoms asks for a one-year mentor commitment, and requests that mentors arrange to meet with the mentee twice a month. YoungMoms participants focus on goals of completion of high school; pursuing higher education/training; moving towards gainful employment and stable housing, and gaining parenting and life skills.
Through the organization, a case manager works with each of the young moms to establish goals and design a path towards achieving those goals; the mentor provides whatever encouragement and practical support needed. YoungMoms offers an excellent mentor training that prepares a mentor for this new venture and provides ongoing support through mentor meetings and organized mentor/mentee activities.
The above guidelines are important, as both the mentor and mentee are making a mutual commitment to work together. At the same time, at a recent mentors’ gathering, every mentor said that they have learned the art of flexibility and that if they can’t meet with the mentee twice a month, because of the many variables that life presents, they make up for it through phone calls, text connections and attending monthly Club Night or other events together.
One mentor tells about her experience---“When I first started as a mentor, I attended my mentee’s high school graduation and had tears in my eyes as she walked across the stage. She worked four days a week, walked to/from school and took care of her baby the entire time. She did it!” It seems having someone appreciate the success of reaching goals is also a gift that the mentor gives!
It is rewarding to hear about the interaction that occurs in a mentoring relationship---“She has taken her tests for admission to college and is scheduled to attend in late August. She plans on going to class two days a week. She is also interviewing for work on the days she is not in school. We got her dressed for the interviews and spoke about interview questions. She already has customer service experience at a deli. She originally wanted to work in a store. I suggested she look at something different, perhaps childcare, which would look great on a resume after college. She took my suggestion and is waiting to hear back from an application and interview.”
One mentor reflects--“I often think that if I had this kind of mentoring as a child perhaps I would have gone to college, etc. I try to stress to my mentee that life is all about 'choices' that shape who/what you become. It would have been good for me to have someone older and wiser when I was a teen to guide me along the way. At the age of these young mothers, they think they know what they want and how to get it. Perhaps talking and sharing experiences gives them different avenues, ideas and hopes to consider.”
When I asked my mentor friends, what led them to signing up particularly to become a YoungMoms’ mentor, both spoke about wanting to “make a difference” in a young person’s life. In the case of YoungMoms, they are actually not only supporting the young mom, but the child and sometimes even the extended family.
They both agreed that they have stepped into a whole new world, learning about what a teen and parent face today, as well as having the real-life experience of another culture. The benefit of this dynamic relationship is certainly mutual. Thank you, Jean Burke and Rosemary Gidlewski for taking on the challenge and the reward of becoming a mentor.
It is our hope that in sharing your experience others will be inspired to follow in your footsteps.