January is National Mentoring Month! Research proves that caring volunteers working with students of all ages have the power to help kids boost academic achievement and put them on track to enter kindergarten ready to learn and graduate high school on time - which benefits all of us. Here are five reasons volunteer mentors matter from Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide:
I want to acknowledge one form of leadership that's essential to creating the kind of lasting change we seek for our communities - the volunteer mentor.
Their compassion and commitment impacts all of us. The change they create happens in backyards and ballparks as well as the workplace and through large institutions. And, the results they yield can be felt for generations.
In particular, a volunteer mentor can have a profound effect on the life of a young person. From my experience, here are five powerful reasons why.
1. Provide a Valuable Third-Party
Because mentors are not parents, young people are sometimes more likely to share struggles or ask questions that would greatly benefit from an adult perspective. Non-parent adults can provide valuable extra support and a safe place in which to discuss difficult topics.
2. Show That Young People Are Valued
An adult in the community who genuinely cares communicates volumes about the worth and value of a young person. Feeling valued leads to better self-esteem. And, improved self-esteem leads to better decision-making. A positive outlook can be infectious, serving both the individual and their peers.
3. Role Models Work
All of us learn from role models. If a young person sees an adult she or he admires treat others with respect, they'll do the same. If they see an adult take pride in their work and their community, they'll do the same. Everyone deserves someone positive to look up to.
4. Fill Critical Hours of the Day
Some young people have parents who work multiple jobs and are unable to be at home after school or in the evenings. Environments like these aren't always conducive to learning and good decision-making. Volunteer mentors can fill critical gaps in the day and provide the structure some need to be successful.
5. Create the Next Generation of Mentors
Young people can also learn to be a mentor themselves and play a leadership role in their own community. Mentors provide an experience that may be drawn from for a lifetime.
I know from experience. Volunteer mentors had a profound effect on my own life. The commitment caring adults made to me at certain points along the way made all of the difference.
Whether it's mentoring a young person, serving on a board or simply giving a neighbor a hand, thank you to volunteer leaders everywhere for all that you do every day to strengthen your communities. Your individual efforts have a tremendous impact on all of us.
Brian Gallagher became President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way Worldwide in 2009.
Click here to view Brian's full bio.