For the past 14 years, our nation has celebrated National Mentoring Month in January. We celebrate because we know the impact mentors have on the life of a young person.

    At The Community Partnership, we are keenly aware of the importance of these caring volunteers as they are matched with pregnant and parenting youth in our community through Young Parents, a state-funded program. They prove on a daily basis that matching a young person with a mentor can turn a life around, inspire and motivate, and help them have an opportunity to learn basic life and parenting skills, and a chance at meeting their full potential.

    Some of the participants we serve can’t see the bigger picture, due to generational or situational poverty or challenges and obstacles that seem insurmountable. Sometimes a mentor can be a voice of reason, a cheerleader when times are tough, a guide helping a young person navigate the choppy waters of life, or someone who just cares. They let that young person know “You have value. You mean something to me. I care.”

    I’d like to share a story with you about a pregnant 17 year-old girl who joined our Young Parents Program a couple of years ago. She had very little family support and no one she could confide in or rely on. Her plan (or lack of a plan) was to drop out of high school. We matched her with a mentor, and little by little, with her mentor’s help, she came to realize that dropping out of school wasn’t going to solve her problems – that would make her life even more complicated. Her mentor made her comfortable by sharing her own life experiences, and sharing her own tactics for handling stress and raising a healthy and happy child. Over time, the relationship between the mentor and mentee flourished. That Young Parents Program participant went on to finish high school! Her mentor could not be prouder.

    One of the young fathers in the program was thrilled to be matched with a mentor who could help him answer questions about fatherhood, about career choices, and financial matters. Mentors are a valuable resource. Some of them have “been there and done that” in the area of raising a child, making a living, pursuing educational goals, and being a part of a community. Sharing that experience with others means a lot.

    Mentoring in the Young Parents Program involves a minimum of four hours per month. It does not mean the mentor is an ATM or a counselor. It just means that you’ll be there as a friend for that young parent.  All of our mentors must fill out a comprehensive application and undergo a background check.  After the application process (which doesn’t take long!) is finished, a mentor is matched with a young parent based on similar interests and needs. If you’ve never been a mentor, don’t worry! We provide regular mentor training classes and support. Do you remember who was there for you when you were younger? Won’t you take a little time to check out our Young Parents Program? We need mentors, and these young parents need YOU. If you know of a pregnant or parenting youth, aged 14-22, please let them know about this program at The Community Partnership.

    And finally – THANK YOU to the dedicated mentors in the Young Parents Program! We have a wonderful group of committed and caring mentors. We value your support in serving young people who need help and guidance. You make a difference.

Happy New Year!
Marilyn Newkirk
Young Parents Mentor Coordinator