Research suggests that mentoring helps to provide young people with the important connections that they need to lead to increased social and economic opportunities. This is particularly true for 18 million youth in America who are at risk for becoming disconnected from school and work, according to MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
That's why National Mentoring Month was established.
So what exactly is National Mentoring Month, what's the history of it and how is it recognized? Here's everything you need to know!
National Mentoring Month is a month to recognize and pay respect to mentors who help students and mentees of all kinds across a multitude of disciplines.
"National Mentoring Month is an annual designation observed in January," according to National Day Calendar. "This month, focus on how we can all work together to increase the number of mentors to make sure young people in our communities have dependable people to look up to and follow in their footsteps. NMM celebrates mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives. Its goals are to raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms; recruit individuals to mentor, especially in programs that have waiting lists of young people; and promote the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage their constituents in mentoring."
National Mentoring Month has been around for some time. In fact, The Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR, first founded National Mentoring Month in 2002. It's since been recognized in January every year.
So why do we celebrate mentors, anyway?
MENTOR released a 2014 report titled The Mentoring Effect, which suggests that mentoring plays a hugely significant role in the lives of young people. In fact, the report confirms that mentoring does indeed have a positive impact, connecting young people to networks of support and resources that provide them with opportunities to achieve social and economic success.
Here's why the official holiday is important, according to the National Mentoring Partnership:
"Evaluations of youth mentoring programs have provided evidence that high-quality, enduring relationships can lead to a range of positive outcomes for the young people involved," according to the National Mentoring Partnership. "Likewise, researchers have deciphered some of the conditions under which youth mentoring is most effective, as well as the types of volunteers, young people and activities that are associated with positive developmental outcomes.
That's why MENTOR is important, as well. As an organization, MENTOR makes a massive difference.
"By incorporating such findings into practice and guidelines, MENTOR is dedicated to helping bring youth mentoring to scale, while also prioritizing program quality and effectiveness," according to the organization. "To that end, MENTOR serves the field by facilitating an open and efficient exchange of youth mentoring research among researchers, practitioners and policy makers in a variety of ways. In 2012, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Boston, MENTOR formed the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring (Center), which is led by Dr. Jean Rhodes, a pioneer in mentoring research. The goal of the Center is to advance youth mentoring research, make the findings more accessible to the field and increase practitioners’ skills and knowledge in applying evidence-based practice to their work.
"To further this goal, the Center established The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring to serve as an online resource to share new findings and encourage conversation around research and ideas for the advancement of youth mentoring practices and policies."
Of course, there are several ways to recognize and celebrate National Mentoring Month. Here are four ways to do just that.
Send your own mentor a thank-you note to show your appreciation for their hard work in helping you to achieve your goals. You can do this by sending them flowers, a small gift or a letter.
Support education programs that train mentors. You can do this by donating to MENTOR, for example, which asks: "In real life, who do you turn to?" It notes that nine million kids in America grow up without an answer to that question, which is why your monetary gift can help to ensure that every young person has someone to turn to when they need help. Without your support, one out of every three young people will grow up without a mentor.
Sign up with a local education program to mentor students who could use your help! You can also do this via MENTOR; find more information on how to sign up to be a mentor in your local area here. There are surely other local initiatives in your area, as well. All you have to do is start asking around about who might need your help!
There are several National Mentoring Month events recognized at the national level and that are celebrated on social media. Go ahead and mark these dates on your calendar so you can be sure to engage in the national conversation:
Ask Congress to help support youth mentoring funding to ensure that all young people in your area have access to a consistent and caring adult in their individual lives. You can get the word out by sending an email to your Senators and Representatives. You can also go ahead and pick up the phone to give them a ring, instead!
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.