Mentoring myths

There are thousands of youth waiting for a mentor and most adults recognize the importance of mentoring. Why is there such a gap between youth in need and available volunteers?

Young people need mentors to provide guidance and friendship. Formal mentoring programs help meet this need for youth who do not find mentors naturally. Unfortunately, there are far more youth in need than there are mentors. Why is this? Many adults have misconceptions about mentoring that may keep them from answering the call to mentor. Let’s look at some of these myths and debunk them.

Myth #1: I don’t have enough time to mentor.
Reality: Yes, mentoring takes time. Fortunately, there are many different types of mentoring and most people will find that at least one will work for them. In a community-based mentoring program, mentors and youth choose the time of their visits together. During these visits, you can do something together that you were already planning to do—eat dinner, go to the library or the gym, or even volunteer for another organization. Site-based mentoring usually involves a one-hour a week commitment. These mentors are often provided with a variety of activity options and if the site is at a school, matches only meet during the school year.

Myth #2: I am not perfect—I can’t mentor.
Reality: No one is perfect and mentors shouldn’t be perfect! Youth need realistic role models. Mentor training will provide you with the opportunity to build all the skills that are needed.

Myth #3: I don’t have enough money to mentor.
Reality: Michigan State University Extension believes mentors do not need to have money to make a difference. In fact, it is low cost activities that often have the most impact. Mentors can find a variety of free community activities, play a sport or work on an inexpensive craft with their mentees.

Myth #4: I don’t have kids, I can’t be a mentor.
Reality: You do not need to be a parent to make a difference; you just need to enjoy spending time with a young person. Mentors are not supposed to take the place of a parent and have a very different role in the life of a young person than a parent does.

With these myths debunked, it is easy to see that mentoring is a fun way to make a big difference in the life of a young person. If you think you might be interested, call a local mentoring program to learn more: the barriers you imagine might not be real barriers at all. MENTOR can help you find a program near you.

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