“Do you believe in me?”
That was the first question 10 year old Dalton Sherman asked during a 2008 teacher conference in Dallas,Texas. He was speaking to over 20,000 educators about how important their job was to the success of students. Just finishing up the 4th grade, Dalton explained in 9 minutes how imperative it is that there are people in our society who believe in students like him. “Please believe in my classmates. Don’t give up on us! Because as you know, in some cases, you are all we’ve got.”
The words Dalton speaks rings true for not just teachers, but I believe all members of society. We have the potential to change lives simply by building purposeful relationships with one another. Mentorship has been proven on several occasions to be the missing component that separates an unsuccessful and a successful person. We see it everyday–from teacher to student relationships, to senior and junior executive apprenticeships. However, despite the success that we have seen of mentoring, we still have 14 million students who do not have mentors in the United States. We are 22nd out of 27 developed countries in terms of graduation rates. And the question I find myself asking is why aren’t more people getting involved?
The preconceived notions of a mentoring relationships still seems to make people hesitate on whether or not they want to make that commitment. I get it–we are all busy, and adding in one more thing to the schedule can seem exhausting. But with the drop out rate steadily increasing, and the high success rate of mentorship (cough 100% cough), mentors are no longer optional–they are necessary.
To help ease your fears, here are the top 4 reasons on why people don’t mentor–but still should:
1. “I don’t have time to mentor.”
I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard this one. However mentoring, as with anything valuable, takes investment. If you want to see a positive change in our communities, take the time to invest in the people in it. It doesn’t have to be hours upon hours a day either! While mentoring with Compass 2 Campus, I was required to spend only 2 hours a week with my mentees. That’s less than 5% of my time–yet whenever I was at schools, it meant the world to the students I was seeing. There are multiple options available to allow you to be a mentor as well. Thanks to technology, you can easily do email, phone, or Skype mentoring; whatever works for you and your mentee(s).
2. “I don’t have the right qualifications to be a mentor.”
Many people have asked me “What does it take to be a mentor” and my answer has always been to simply believe in the potential of the student you are mentoring. You don’t have to have a Masters degree in Psychology or speak 5 languages, you just need to be you. If you look at my Mentor Monday profiles (Check them out here, here, here, and here), you see that the common theme between all the mentors isn’t a level of skill–it’s their heart for serving their students.
Since my first year as a Compass 2 Campus mentor, I have watched Dalton’s speech a dozen times over. I can tell you with great certainty that he never mentions anywhere that there is a certain checklist of accolades you need to have before you can become a mentor. He does however say this, “What we need from you is for you to believe that we can reach our highest potential; no matter where we come from.”
3. “I have had failures, how can I mentor?”
With a lot more ease than you think. There is a connotation that in order to mentor, you have to be this perfect being. However, that is a very tall order– especially when it’s nearly impossible to achieve success without learning the lessons from failures before. I can’t imagine where I would be had I not met my mentors just because they felt they were unqualified due to failures. Perfection isn’t something people, especially young students, can relate to. Everyone is different, and so in that respect, we need to have mentors who have had different experiences as well.
In my first quarter, I nearly failed out of college because of a course load that was way more than I could handle. After that, I worked hard to get my GPA back up and today am a graduate with a degree in a STEM field. I share that story with students who don’t have the best of grades to empower them to know it can get better if you work for it. What you may see as an embarrassment, is a sense of hope for a student. It shows that it is ok to make mistakes, and that it’s never too late to turn things around. Those little connections help you build the foundation of trust between you and your mentees. When you build trust, you gain influence in their life, and when you gain influence that’s when you can begin to make a difference.
4. “There are enough mentors, they don’t need me.”
I personally believe there will never be enough mentors in our society. Think back to your time in school to where you are today–can you remember the people who have said or done something for you that helped shaped who you are today? How many people invested in your life? The teacher who stayed after class to work with you on an assignment, the career counselor who helped you with your resume, or the alumni who gave you sound advice about the work you wish to make a career, and how you can go about getting started the right way. If it not for these people and many others, where would you be?
There are so many people that go into shaping one’s being, and it’s not always the same combination. That is why we NEED new mentors constantly. Currently in the United States 9 million at-risk students do not have mentors. Statistics have shown that those who do not have mentors from an at-risk environment are susceptible to dropping out of school and potentially having run-ins with the law. There is always going to be someone who needs a different set of mentors to help them find their path. Someone who can connect with them, and understand where they are coming from. Why not you?
In essence, this all can be summed into one piece of advice for those of you who don’t think you can mentor; be the change you wish to see. We hear constantly about how our education system is broken, or how we need to change how we are educating our youth–you have the opportunity to do that as a mentor. Show that you believe in these students by spending a couple hours a week with them. Hear their stories, and show them what great potential they have. More importantly, believe that the experiences you have had in life will help you shape that little boy or girl into becoming a success.
So I pose the same question to you that Dalton proposes, do you believe?
Learn more about the Mentoring Gap here!
Want to get involved in mentoring? Find a program that suits you well here!
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