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January 20, 2010 > January is National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month

Submitted By Jerry Metzker

January 2010 is the ninth annual National Mentoring Month. Spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project, MENTOR and the Corporation for National and Community Service, National Mentoring Month highlights mentoring and its positive impact on young people's lives. Throughout the month, mentoring organizations around the country are campaigning to recruit caring adult mentors for America's youth and share the tremendous successes of mentoring.

On December 29, 2009, the US Senate officially recognized January as National Mentoring Month 2010 with a resolution introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kerry (D-MA).

"Nothing is more important to our nation's future than preparing our children to lead productive and fulfilling lives," notes General Colin L. Powell, national spokesperson.

Currently, there are over 17 million children in the United States who crave positive adult interaction in their lives. Tens of thousands live in the Bay Area.

"These young people have seen their hopes and dreams crumble by life and circumstance," observes Robert Goetsch, Executive Director of Hayward-based Be a Mentor, Inc.

Be A Mentor has connected children and youth with supportive, compassionate and interested adults since 1992 and is one of the fastest growing youth services organizations in the Bay Area.

"Too many youth have no strong adult role models or guides in their lives," says Goetsch. "Their already difficult and fractured lives are leading them to make poor and even dangerous choices in life - reject school, engage in risky and delinquent behaviors and basically give up on any future at all. One active, compassionate and attentive adult can make all the difference in the world."

Be A Mentor and its Bay Area partners are currently supporting over 200 at-risk youth with individual mentoring services, learning opportunities, social services and other forms of support to guide them into successful and responsible adulthood.

Current mentoring projects include the "Foster Care Youth Mentoring Partnership," "New Horizons Mentor Project" for children of incarcerated parents and guardians, "Hayward Schools Mentoring Partnership Program" and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)'s "Inside/Outside Advocate Program"" and collaborative programs with "100 Black Boys" of East Oakland School of the Arts (EOSA) on the Castlemont High School campus, "College Bound Scholars" of Las Positas College, "Fesco-the Family Shelter" in Hayward, "Foster A Dream" for Contra Costa and Solano County foster youth, "MISSSEY" for commercially sexually exploited youth in Oakland, "Project Re-Connect" for youth interacting with the Alameda County Juvenile Justice System and "Tri-Valley (Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore) Mentoring Program" with the Tri-Valley YMCA.

Collaborators, besides those mentioned above, include Alameda County's Department of Children and Families, A Better Way, Bay Area Youth Centers, Casey Family Services, First Place for Youth, the Fred Finch Center, Foster Youth Alliance, Lincoln Child Center and Seneca Center. In 2008, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors issued an official proclamation supporting mentoring.

"I am delighted to encourage all of us to support mentoring," Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Alice Lai-Bitker stated. "All young people are valuable to our community and deserve a helping hand."

Disadvantaged youth targeted include those in foster care, with incarcerated parents, interacting with the juvenile justice system, underperforming academically, susceptible to gangs, at-risk of teen parenting, commercially sexually exploited, homeless and likely to drop out of school.

Studies show young people with a mentor do better in school and develop healthier and more successful adult lives, particularly those who lack adult role models and support. In many instances, mentoring provides the opportunity for young people to acquire the fundamental skills required to succeed academically, socially and professionally.

"There are thousands of at-risk young people in the Bay Area," explains Goetsch. "If left on their own, they tend to follow paths that lead to unnecessary struggle - for themselves and for society. It takes all of us to make a difference and it's as easy as being a friend."

"You can play an important part by volunteering as a mentor. It doesn't require special skills, just a willingness to listen and to care. You will experience the satisfaction that comes from inspiring a young person to reach for the stars," says General Powell.

"My mentor helped me pull myself into an entirely different place in life," notes Chris, one of Be A Mentor's youth. "Two years ago I'd have never expected to be where I am today - at college and working. All because my mentor took the time to get to know me and help me see who I could really be."

Mentoring Month also provides everyone with the opportunity to thank her/his personal mentors on Thank Your Mentor Day, January 21, 2010.

To apply to be a mentor, visit www.beamentor.org/projects.htm or call (510)795-6488.

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