By Shannon Elward, Indiana Commission for Higher Education
Ask most adults how they got to where they are today and a lot of them will say hard work and determination. A lot of them will also mention a mentor who supported them, too. Mentors help us grow, develop and achieve our goals. If you’re a student of any age – from kindergarten to college – you can benefit from having a mentor in your life.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone you can go to for advice to help you make the best decisions for your future. Mentors guide you through tough or challenging situations and inspire you to keep working hard to achieve your dreams. A mentor can:
- Answer questions and offer advice and support
- Connect you with resources in your community
- Challenge you to try new things
- Check in with you on your goals and progress
- Celebrate your achievements
Why does it matter?
Almost no one gets where they want to be without help. Professional athletes had coaches and trainers supporting them. Rocket scientists had teachers encouraging them. New employees are often mentored by experienced employees. The fact is, we can all benefit from talking with someone who has been there before.
The long term perks show mentoring matters, too. Students with mentors are more likely to enroll in college and participate in sports or extracurriculars. They’re also more likely to volunteer in their communities.
How can I find a mentor?
Think about the people in your life who you look up to. You might find a mentor in your family, at school, at your house of worship, in extracurricular activities or at a job.
Elementary, middle and high school students may also be able to connect with local mentoring organizations in their community. Try searching online for “mentor in [your city name].” You can also check out Mentoring.org, a website that maintains a list of mentoring organizations all over the country.
If you’re in college, check to see if your institution has a mentoring program that connects students with other students or faculty/staff members. Bonus: If you’re a college 21st Century Scholar, having a mentor or champion helps you complete the College Scholar Success Program.
Interested in being a mentor?
January is National Mentoring Month – a time to celebrate mentors and show how mentoring helps young people find and follow their dreams. 1 in 3 young people in the US will reach the age of 19 without having a mentor of any kind.
If you’re an adult who is considering becoming a mentor, now is a great time to start. Try connecting with your elementary, middle, high school or college alma mater or with local community organizations. Need help connecting with a community organization? Mentoring.org maintains a list of organizations who need adults like you!