January is National mentoring month, a month to heighten awareness in communities across the country of the value that mentoring brings to the lives of both the mentee (youth) and the mentor (adult). This is exemplified in our own community through youth-serving organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Tahoe Youth and Family Services and SOS. Think back to someone in your life when you were growing up who became that special person. Someone who was there just for you. Someone who did not pass judgment on you. Someone who listened. A person who saw your potential and made sure you had the confidence and resources to succeed. In many ways, that person was a mentor to you. Actor Denzel Washington, who is a national spokesman for the Boys & Girls Club of America, has been instrumental in bringing front and center the importance of adult relationships and mentoring at the 4,000 Boys and Girls Clubs across the country, including in South Lake Tahoe. In his book “A Hand to Guide Me,” Denzel relates the positive experiences of more than 70 athletes, politicians, actors and other high-profile people who had a mentor in their lives. In the book, Denzel describes the positive impact of growing up in a Boys & Girls Club the positive relationships he had with adult mentors. Benefits for mentee/youth include healthier relationships and lifestyle choices, increased high school graduation rates, lower high school dropout rates, enhanced self esteem and self confidence, improved interpersonal skills, and a decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use.Benefits for mentor/adult include increased self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, insight into childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, and a creation of networks of other volunteers.Mentoring can take place in a variety of ways. One-on-one mentoring is when a mentor meets with their mentee each week one-on-one. Group mentoring is when a mentor meets with a group of two to four mentees each week. Peer mentoring partners older youth in high school with younger, elementary mentees to be a role model. Site-based mentoring-at the Boys & Girls Club, mentors meet with their mentees at the club and are never alone with them. Community based mentoring is when mentors meet with their mentees at community settings or activities such as ice skating, bowling or skiing/snowboarding.The mentoring program at the Boys & Girls Club partners with Tahoe Youth & Family Services to provide both onsite and community-based mentoring. With a grant from Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe, and a pass-through grant from the Boys & Girls Club of America/Office of Juvenile Programs, the program has already matched more than 30 young people with a mentor. Remember, mentoring works. Consider making a difference to a young person in our community by becoming his or her mentor. To find out more, visit www.bgclt.org or contact Diana Grandoni/Boys & Girls Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or Eli Stevenson/Tahoe Youth & Family Services at email@example.com.— Karen Houser is the executive director of the Boys & GIrls Club of Lake Tahoe.
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