January is National Mentoring Month:
"Who Mentored You?"
This month marks the third annual National Mentoring Month campaign, a nationwide effort to recruit volunteer mentors for young people who are at risk of not achieving their full potential. Research has shown a mentor can greatly enhance a young person's prospects for leading a healthy and productive life.
The campaign's theme is "Who mentored you? Thank themüand pass it on!" The initiative is spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, and Mentoring USA. Celebrities participating in the effort include Tom Brokaw, Ray Charles, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Kelsey Grammer, Quincy Jones, Senator John McCain, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Cal Ripken, Jr., Martin Sheen, Mike Wallace and Oprah Winfrey.
Growing up, was there someone in your life—a family member, teacher, coach, boss or neighbor—who encouraged you, showed you the ropes, and helped you become the person you are today? That person was a mentor to you. Oprah Winfrey cites a fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, who taught her that it was okay to be smart, which changed her life. Today, too many young people do not get that kind of support.
Harvard's web site, www.WhoMentoredYou.org , presents video clips and written essays contributed by celebrities from various fields, who share recollections about important mentors from their childhood and young adult years. The web site includes excerpts from the second edition of Matilda Raffa Cuomo's well-received book, The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans Recall Their Mentors . The book features 77 contributors who have distinguished themselves in their fields, and their essays tell about the men and women who served as their mentors and inspirations. Secretary of State Colin Powell points to the influence of his father; Senator John McCain credits a high school teacher and coach whose example strengthened his resolve during years of imprisonment in North Vietnam; and Tim Russert thanks his seventh grade teacher at St. Bonaventure School and Father John Sturm at Canisius High School in Buffalo. Martin Sheen, who as a young man was also inspired and encouraged by a teacher, Father Al, was the first celebrity who took time to do a mentoring public service announcement for Mentoring USA; his spot will run again in January 2004, thanks to Court TV.
At this time of year, Mentoring USA, New York City's largest, site-based, one-to-one mentoring program is grateful to our nearly 800 volunteers who have been trained and formed relationships with their mentees on an effective, one-to-one basis. We thank all our corporate sponsors—companies and organizations, who share their most valuable resource—their employees—with us. Our largest partners in terms of employee participation include Bloomingdale's, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Con Ed, NYPD and Viacom.
Consistently for the third year of National Mentoring Month, Mentoring USA and Bloomingdale's again announce the unveiling on January 15th of their window display celebrating the relationships between mentors and mentees for "Thank your Mentor Day." As a result of a wonderful mentoring partnership involving Mentoring USA, Bloomingdale's and PS 59, seventy six students and their mentors who compromise the Mentoring USA program will be on hand at 9 am to see their artwork—including portraits of mentors created by their mentees—displayed in the corner window at East 60th Street and Lexington Avenue. Bloomingdale's then treats all the participants to a special mentor-mentee breakfast at the Showtime Cafe'.
"Bloomingdale's is proud to have Mentoring USA as part of their Partners in Time initiative. This program is consistent with our goal of promoting volunteerism in support of education," said Michael Gould, President of Bloomingdale's.
When the employees of any company volunteer as mentors to help develop our youth, society's most precious resource, in the process everybody is a winner.
We need everyone's help to prepare all of our children for productive and fulfilling lives. General Colin Powell put it this way: "Something as small as reading aloud to a child to discover his or her own unique gifts and abilities, can be a gift that keeps the lights blazing in a child's eyes and changes that child's life forever."
National Mentoring Month is a great time to honor those people who have made a difference in your life. You can "pass it on" to the next generation by volunteering as a mentor. If you've previously considered volunteering, why not take the step now? It doesn't require any special skills—just an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a young person growing up today. And you'll be amazed by how much you get out of the experience.
For more information, visit www.MentoringUSA.org or call (212) 253-1194, ext. 238.#
Mrs. Cuomo is Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA. Dr. Winsten is an Associate Dean at Harvard School of Public Health and Co-Director of the Harvard Mentoring Project.