Friday, October 17, 2008

Make a difference: Become a mentor!

I am now a third-year mentor with Community For Youth (CFY), a wonderful non-profit organization that works with youth in the three lowest-performing Seattle public high schools:  Chief Sealth, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland.  The program "transforms high school students who are struggling - with school, with family, with their direction in life - into young adults who have confidence, determination and self-awareness."

It has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done.  I love the energy of the kids; the creativity; the possibilities. 

The most important quality of a mentor is that you be dedicated -- to the youth, to the program, to the community.  As we say, "Put on the program!"  If you have that, the skills and the rest will fall into place as you go along.  Many of these kids have been abandoned by everyone else.  Sometimes all it takes is for that life-line to just be there.

I also think about my life in high school and how great it would have been to have someone there just for me -- someone who may be in a position in life that I would like to be in one day (or maybe one beyond my capability to imagine at the time).  Serendipitously, I made it on my own, but many of these kids just need to get a little boost in the right direction (or help figuring out what that direction is).
"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted"  -- Garrison Keillor

  • Why CFY as an organization is more deserving of your time than other volunteer organizations:

    • There is a structure and a program to guide you through the year.  Other programs may just throw you together with a kid and you're left to your own devices.

    • You get mentor training.  You are certainly not expected to know how to interact with youth or how to help them with their goals. You get on the job training!

    • You have and entire community of staff, volunteers, other volunteer mentors and of course the kids themselves to help you.  That's what the Community in Community For Youth is all about.  Nobody should have to go it alone.

  • A little bit about what it means to be a mentor:

    • Being a "Relentless Commitment" to a youth.  Others may leave them, but you will stick by them.

    • Providing encouragement, coaching and supporting them; being an advocate for them to get what they want out of life

    • Being their friend; having fun!

    • Help guide them away from trouble or get them help if they are ever in danger or at risk
  • Being a mentor, changes your life.  I didn't know what that could possibly mean at the time, but I was intrigued to find out.  And it is absolutely true.  You may actually gain so much more than the students.

  • Mentors truly look forward to their nights with their students, the community, their family groups.  Three hours a week is all it takes to make a difference.  But once you're involved, you find yourself wanting to give even more.

  • The other mentors are such great, quality people.  And you get to meet them, support each other, and have fun too.

  • You get the opportunity to do something new that will take you out of your comfort zone and help you grow as a person

  • Oh, and did I mention -- you get to go to camp!

Contact me with any questions!  But go to their website and sign up for an orientation!  Only two left for 2008/2009:

October 29, 2008 @ 5:30pm

November 3, 2008 @ 5:30pm

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