At the end of a long workday, it’s tempting to just put your feet up and relax. But what if you could use your off time to help transform the world? Mentoring a teenager is not only impactful but also incredibly rewarding. World change starts one person at a time. That person can be you.
Volunteering with young adults may seem like a daunting task, but many teens are eager to connect. Think back to your own youth. Odds are, you still remember key influential adults and how their involvement affected you. According to youth.gov, youths with mentors miss less school and maintain greater engagement in learning. Mentors don’t replace parents or guardians, but they do provide additional support in a teen’s development.
Ready, Set, Search
How do you locate a program? First check your local community for a youth center. They often provide central locations where teens can gather for social, instructional, and recreational activities. Mentoring is an important element in many youth center programs.
Another route is to search the web. You’ll find many volunteer opportunities listed online. Organizations like VolunteerMatch provide location- and interest-based search options. Another great method is to simply ask around. Local organizations often have small budgets and don’t actively advertise. Find out what teen programs are available in your area by cultivating your own curiosity. Think outside the box: Locate opportunities through athletic coaching, the local high school, churches, and community programs. Educational tutoring, music programs, and charitable service also facilitate mentoring opportunities.
Once you identify an organization, find out what processes are involved to place you as a mentor. Most require an application, background check, interview, and training. This helps match up teens to the right mentor.
Now that you’ve found the perfect spot for your skills, you want to get the most out of the experience. What are the keys to being a successful mentor?
- Be authentic. Being a mentor requires developing a real, genuine relationship over time. Share your gifts and talents through the natural course of discussions, activities, and support. Engage in conversation and ask questions.
- Be encouraging. We all want to know that we matter. Show compassion and spread hope.
- Listen. Teens need to feel heard. It validates their thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
- Lead by example. Model patience, communication, and optimism. Shared activities give your mentee an opportunity to see you in action, and how you handle the ups and downs can shape your mentee’s own coping skills.
- Be reliable. If you make an appointment with your mentee, show up.
- Know the book. Each organization outlines its own specific rules and policies. Operate within those boundaries and controls. The guidelines foster a safe environment for your unique mentoring relationship.
The Long Haul
Yes, volunteering with young adults takes commitment, but mentoring comes with a surprising result. Your life becomes enriched through the process, too. In mentoring, you have an opportunity to give back in a way that creates a sense of community, purpose, and personal growth for mentors and mentees alike. It brings diverse people together to promote collaboration and idea exchange. And this is a great experience to involve your similarly aged children if they’re interested in volunteer work.
As for changing the world, according to MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, mentoring really does make a difference. At-risk young adults who are mentored are 55 percent more likely to attend college and 130 percent more likely to hold a leadership position.
You know what else? Ninety percent express an interest in becoming a mentor themselves. Now that’s impact. Get involved, and then let us know about your volunteer experience on Twitter.
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