Children learn from example. This is a fact that we usually realize from a scenario in which we see our less wonderful traits being played out before us by a young person who has spent time around us. In mentoring though, we have the opportunity to positively and purposely influence and guide a young mind. Mentoring usually targets kids who are at risk because of physical or socioeconomic factors which predispose them to making bad choices and going down negative paths.
There are many phenomenal mentoring problems in place around the country but if you know of a particular place or set of kids who are in need of intervention and positive influence in their lives, there is no reason you cannot begin your own youth mentoring program. This can seem like a very overwhelming aspiration, but ultimately it’s not as hard as you might think.
The first step is to identify the children you plan to reach out to. Your program could focus on kids in your neighborhood or city, or perhaps your church. The second step is to recruit positive, committed role models to spend time with and pour into the children’s lives. We tend to think that only a rock star or a famous actor has the ability to impress and influence a child but in reality kids respond to genuinely interested people who really care about them. No glamorous job needed. It IS important though that you contact local law enforcement and public agencies in order to obtain advice on how to screen and perform background checks on potential mentors. These checks cannot completely guarantee the behavior of all mentors, but every possible move toward safety and precaution must be taken.
After you have your mentors and mentorees in mind, the next step is to draft rules, expectations, and goals for the mentoring sessions; how often are teams expected to meet? What kinds of activities and conversation are and are not approved? You should make every effort to pair up kids with someone who is in a career or who has achieved a goal that the child has an interest in, but again, an open, caring heart and a desire to care about and listen to the child is the most important thing.
With children we never know which words or experiences will stick with them, but the more positive ones we can pour into their lives, the more likely it becomes that whichever words or experiences they hang onto into adulthood will be ones of productivity and encouragement.