Become a mentor

Published 5:08 pm Monday, February 7, 2011

A couple of recent articles in the Suffolk News-Herald have highlighted the importance of mentors in the lives of young people.

Back in January, we had an article about Suffolk Parks and Recreation’s Suffolk 757 Protégé program. That program recruits adults from around the city who are available after school hours to meet with young people, share their interests and guide them toward their goals.

And just last week, Suffolk Public Schools recognized its mentors with a reception at King’s Fork Middle School. The school division’s mentors meet with their young people during school hours. School officials said during their retreat last week that the school division sees its program as a complement to the city program because together, the two programs allow any adult to be a mentor, whether they are available during school hours or afterward.

Email newsletter signup

“There’s no excuse for anybody not to be able to find the time to mentor a child,” schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said during the retreat.

Anyone who had a mentor — whether it was an official designation or an unofficial relationship — when they were growing up can understand the importance of these programs. Mentors can help challenge young people to reach for their goals, or can even open up new doors for their “mentee” that young person had never considered before.

While I believe the first responsibility of raising a child always lies with the parents, there can never be any harm in more positive influences in a child’s life. In those cases where the parents are not parenting, it is even more vital that children get some positive influence from somewhere in their life.

In my case, I was blessed to have two involved parents who took their job of parenting seriously. They paid attention to what I was doing and how I was performing in school, came to most of the basketball games I played in or cheered for and disciplined me when I went astray.

Even beyond them and other family members, though, I can think of teachers, basketball coaches, cheerleading coaches, bosses, coworkers, a very special principal and even some friends who provided positive influences in my way of thinking — when I was in school and even up to the present.

I would encourage anyone who is able to sign up for a mentoring position with either the city or the school program. Even if you don’t, though, be aware that others around you may be looking to you for a positive influence. You never know how much they might need it.