Raffa Cuomo and Jack M. Adrien
1987, when we established the New York State Mentoring Program
(NYSMP), our vision was to provide children at risk of dropping
out of school with the resources, materials and specially trained
mentors on whom they could count. The current New York State administration
eliminated the NYSMP in 1995. However, Mentoring USA has been
successful in keeping that dream alive. Unfortunately, there are
still 250,000 children desperately in need of a mentor. We have
come far since 1987 when the NYSMP was initiated, but there is
still so much work to be done.
David McCourt, who on September 11 lost his wife, Ruth, and daughter
Juliana, four years old, has given a grant to Mentoring USA for
B.R.A.V.E. (Bias Related Anti-Violence Education) an effective
program to “keep Juliana’s memory alive” in order to foster harmony,
peace and understanding among the children of the United States
and the world. The program is now called B.R.A.V.E. Juliana and
is designated to educate all children about diversity with books
of ethnic heroes and demonstrate ethnic-conflict resolution.
The word is spreading as to the importance of mentoring, but there
yet remains much work to do. The need for qualified mentors seems
to increase faster than the capacity to recruit and train them.
The first step in this endeavor must always be to get the word
The role of a mentor is an integral part of a child’s life. In
my book, The Person Who Changed My Life, I was fortunate
to relay the personal accounts of professional people from all
walks of life actively involved in the arts, entertainment, politics,
etc. Each of these accomplished individuals had one thing in common:
the guiding presence of an adult who served as a mentor. My book
was also featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which originally
aired on March 22, 2000 for a segment discussing the importance
of volunteerism. Mentoring USA is listed as a volunteer resource
for Oprah’s Angel Network, and the book will be reprinted as a
result of the growing interest and demand for resources outlining
the importance of mentoring.
The importance of mentoring is profound; the National Mentoring
Project had dedicated the month of January as National Mentoring
Month, with the theme in 2003: “Who mentored you? Thank them…and
pass it on! Mentor a child.” For every child who enjoys the benefits
of a mentoring relationship, there are regrettably five more children
waiting for someone to invest time in their future. And as they
wait, how many of them fall between the cracks and are lost to
us forever? The only way for every person to become aware of the
importance and necessity of mentoring is for people to discuss
what an important role mentoring has played in their life.
The next step is to tell everyone just what an incredible experience
it is to serve as a mentor. Part of the joy of being a mentor
is sharing that wonderful experience with family members, friends,
and co-workers. Allow others to appreciate the impact that you
have had on the life of one special child. This will help to increase
the overall recognition of mentoring as well as concentrate on
just how pressing it is to find mentors for the children who are
not as fortunate as the child you have come to know. The only
way to truly encourage understanding is to promote awareness.
Lastly, invite the people in your life to participate in a mentoring
program. We are connected to so many different people in every
area of our lives. Provide your friends and acquaintances with
the opportunity to also take part in a gratifying mentoring experience.
The first step is often the hardest, so talk about mentoring with
the members of your church, mosque, or synagogue. Involve the
members of your Parent Teacher Association, Community Boards,
or block associations. Suggest mentoring as a community service
initiative to your fraternity or sorority, labor union or civic
organization. The involvement in the mentoring process may take
many forms. Numerous corporations have partnered with Mentoring
USA and have made substantial in-kind donations of computers,
books, as well as cash donations to the sites we service. Notably,
Bloomingdale’s, Hasbro, Inc. and Morgan Stanley have not only
actively aided with the recruitment of their employees to serve
as mentors, but also have been generous supporters to providing
vital resources for the Mentoring USA sites. There are always
opportunities available to include someone looking for a way to
become actively involved with children but who may not know how
to get started. It is the role of Mentoring USA to initiate the
new volunteers with training and placement. The mission is to
give every child the chance to develop a strong relationship that
can last a lifetime.#
Raffa Cuomo is Founder and Chair of Mentoring USA. Jack M. Adrien
is Mentoring USA’s Director of Volunteer Recruitment and Retention.
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: email@example.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express
consent of the publisher. © 2002.