For some, mentoring is a formal arrangement. In such cases, organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Police Athletic League provide an excellent opportunity to work with young people in an organized and well-supervised environment. For others, mentoring can be as simple as finding young people in your family or community who are in need of positive role models.
Considering the number of kids whose parents are working full time, incarcerated or otherwise unavailable, there should be no shortage of opportunities and spaces to offer your services.
Once you've made the decision to mentor, the possibilities for activities are endless.
Given the educational issues that plague our nation, it's always a good idea to expose children to things that will better prepare them for school. Although it's always good to offer tutoring in a subject area, the summer can also be a time for less formal forms of education. Reading enjoyable books together, taking trips to the theater or visiting museums provide engaging opportunities to stretch their minds and hold their attention.
Of course, a good mentoring relationship isn't just about education.
Mentors should also spend time having fun with their mentees, taking them to sporting events, concerts or just hanging out and talking. It's during these casual, less orchestrated moments that young people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, fears, anxieties, dreams and aspirations. These moments help to create spaces of safety and trust that better equip mentors to challenge, encourage, advise and support their mentees.
The stronger the relationship, the better equipped we are to positively affect the lives of our youth.
Phrases like "it takes a village to raise a child" and "each one teach one" have become liberal clichés, but they are no less true. By taking the time to mentor a young person, we dramatically increase their chances of succeeding in life. Of the young people who are regularly mentored, 52 percent are less likely to skip school, 46 percent are less likely to use illegal drugs and 27 percent are less likely to start drinking. Also, students who are mentored are more likely to go to college and less likely to drop out of school, get pregnant, commit suicide or have low self-esteem.
Without question, mentoring works. By keeping children off the streets, we decrease their chances of getting into trouble. By giving our time and attention to them, we let them know that we care about them. By making the sacrifice, we strengthen our own character. This makes for better relationships, better citizens and a better city. 3n
Daily News editor-at-large Marc Lamont Hill is an associate professor of education at Columbia University and host of "Our World With Black Enterprise," which airs at 10 a.m. Sundays on TV-One. Contact him at MLH@marclamonthill.com.