As parents, many of us already see ourselves as our child’s mentor. We provide advice and guide them.
So why should your child have a mentor?
It is true that we can receive mentorship merits as parents, but a mentor who is not a child’s parent can provide positive perspectives that can cut through the monotony—and sometimes monotone cadence—that a child tunes out when delivered by a parent.
How many times have you heard the same thing over and over from your parent, but heard it amplified and slightly different from a family friend or teacher? This extra, external voice of reason can make all the difference when it comes to a child making a good and smart decision over a bad and troublesome choice.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (BGCGW) understands the advantages and importance of the mentor and mentee dynamic. Young people who meet regularly with a mentor are 40% more likely to graduate high school on time, 55% more likely to enroll in college and 51% more likely to hold leadership positions later in life.
Having steady, positive influences at key times in a child’s life can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem and improved academic performance and relationships, while helping a child realize one’s true potential.
“My previous experiences as a mentor have shown me the added impact,” says Diane Hinrichs, a Washington, D.C. paralegal and Boys & Girls Clubs mentor. “Adult attention and mentoring can provide positive role models and help to boost self-esteem, as well as help the young person deal with challenges.”
Hinrichs became involved as a Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington mentor with 10-year-old Skylar during BGCGW’s 2021 Great Big Kid mentor-mentee fundraising program. Great Big Kid is an annual signature fundraising event. Each year, regional board members identify six community leaders to serve as outstanding mentors (“Great Big Kids”) to local Club kids. Over a six-week period, these mentors are paired up with designated Club kids (“mentees”). They meet with a Club kid, supporting the child academically and socially and during activities that foster bonding.
Diane and Skylar got together often during their designated six weeks. They baked cookies and cooked in the Boys & Girls Clubs kitchen (see photo above). They also talked and listened to one another. This point is a big key in mentorship: A mentor provides advice, guidance, listening, encouragement and time. That time builds trust and a safe space for a mentee to ask questions as well as become more open to listening—committing experiences and conversation to both short-term and long-term memory.
“If there’s a kid who’s not feeling comfortable, mentors can make them feel more comfortable, and they can help kids focus on life and school,” Skylar recalls when asked about her definition and understanding of mentors. “Spending time with my mentor … she made me feel comfortable. She was fun!”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington holds its annual Great Big Kid mentor-mentee events in Virginia’s Alexandria, Prince William County and Fairfax territories, but now BGCGW plans to expand the program to its Maryland Clubs for a region-wide mentor-mentee consolidated effort.
Whether you are an adult looking to make a difference and impact a young person, or if you are a parent considering the benefits of mentorship for your child, a Boys & Girls Clubs mentor-mentee experience might be the right fit for you.
Robert A. Anderson is the communications director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Visit bgcgw.org or call 202-540-2300 to learn more about mentoring opportunities.