The term “community” gets bandied about often. At the Pinellas Education Foundation, we don’t use the word lightly. For us, community has deep implications, and how we can support our community is frequently top of mind. As one of the nation’s top education funds, we provide opportunities and support to area student and teachers through a variety of programs. One of the aspects of our programming that has a meaningful impact on the community is our mentorship program.
What is Mentoring?
Mentoring is about sharing knowledge, skills, life experience—and time. Sometimes, the last one is the most important. Business and community leaders across Pinellas County have a rich set of experiences that can benefit the students of their community.
A mentor is a person who is ready to help a student with their current life challenges and is willing to commit to building a relationship. Through both academic and social activities like doing homework, playing a game, or just chatting, a mentor supports a mentee with advice and encouragement.
You don’t need to have a collage of degrees on the wall to be a mentor (though they don’t hurt, either). Rather, you have to be willing to commit your time and to consistently support an area student in need of mentorship. It’s a relationship that requires more than just showing up. It requires empathy, compassion, friendliness, and support.
Benefits of Mentoring
Numerous studies have looked into the effects of mentorship programs (we’ve cited three more recent ones below). What they’ve found has been positive and encouraging. When it comes down to it, though, the benefits of mentoring aren’t just for the mentee—in fact, they’re threefold. Mentoring can impact the mentee, the mentor, and the community.
For the mentee, mentorship may lead to improved:
- School attendance (Public/Private Ventures Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)
- Self-confidence (The Role of Risk, 2013)
- School and sports participation (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)
- Academic achievements (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)
- Chance of college enrollment (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)
- Relationships with parents and teachers (The Role of Risk, 2013)
A mentor may find that mentoring a student helps aid their relationship building skills, brings them new insight into the community and today’s youth, and allows them to give back to their community. Mentoring can also boost a mentor’s self-confidence as well (Youth.gov).
Communities that have a rich mentorship program benefit from the networks that mentoring builds. In addition, mentorship creates a type of “pay it forward” mentality that can help engender ongoing community connections (The Mentoring Effect, 2014). With mentors and mentees who are growing as people and as community members, mentorship programs can help increase educational opportunities and revitalize the workforce.
How Mentoring Can Lead to Community Building
Connecting with a mentee is not a one-way street, it’s a relationship. While mentoring may involve providing some academic support to a student, often, it is more about being a consistent presence in a child’s life. This relationship can lead to learning more about the student, their family, and their community. It fosters an understanding of our neighborhoods that would be difficult to grasp otherwise. Ultimately, when we know more about our communities and the people who are part of it, we build stronger connections.
Take Stock in Children is a statewide initiative that has helped improve school attendance and performance and increased the likelihood of a mentee entering college. Their statistics, shared on the initiatives main website, show how mentorship can help encourage students to finish high school, apply for college, and graduate.
When we invest in education, we invest in the future. Mentoring is a great way to share your knowledge and life experiences with children and young adults. A mentee’s needs will vary—some may need an ear, advice, or just someone with whom they can play a game of chess; others may require help navigating through the college admissions process or seeking a summer job.
Whether you’re retired, a professional, or a parent that is looking to invest some time in your community, we know that you have something special to share. Contact the Pinellas Education Foundation to learn more about current mentorship opportunities.