January is National Mentoring month and Cortland Community Mentors is asking you to make a difference in a young person’s life. Cortland Community Mentors offer support to youth in Cortland County through programs that have been helping youth in this community for 45 years. The YWCA Bridges for Kids and Cortland Prevention Resources Youth Assist programs have 60 youth waiting for mentors of their own. Community mentors are needed!
Every young person has the ability to thrive and succeed if given positive supports and opportunities. This month’s focus on mentoring is a call to the community to donate time to help someone learn a new skill, make a new friend, and feel supported. Mentors spend quality time with their mentees once a week for a few hours. They are positive role models and good listeners. A mentor can simply include the mentee in what they would normally be doing in their daily lives such as gardening, cooking, learning a new sport, craft, or skill, the list is endless. Mentors need no special skills- just a willingness to share time with a young person to help them gain confidence, build self-esteem and feel more a part of the community. Training and support is provided by professionals throughout the mentoring experience.
The positive effects of mentoring are well documented. Mentoring studies by Big Brothers Big Sisters (2011) programs shows statistically significant improvements in academic, behavioral and socio-emotional outcomes of the youth mentored after only one year. Mentored youth are 46 percent less likely to initiate drug use, 27 percent less likely to initiate alcohol use, 32 percent less likely to hit someone than their counterparts without mentors. The youth also report feeling more competent about doing school work. Progress in these areas is linked to longer-term outcomes such as high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency, and college or job readiness. These characteristics directly link to Cortland Area Communities That Care’s vision of a safe, stable community that supports positive values, education, diversity, and investment in our youth.
During this New Year with so many resolutions being made, won’t you consider stepping up and being present in the life of a young person? How often do we take a moment to look at the people who shaped our lives? Think for a moment who influenced you, and then imagine if they had not been there when you needed support, a caring word, a smile of encouragement. Many young people in our community are waiting for that special person- they are waiting for you. The benefits for both the mentor and mentee can be life changing and the need is high- especially for youth in grade 6 and up.