Mentors play many roles in young people’s lives, serving as trusted role models, advocates, cheerleaders, and friends. The word “mentor” itself can be traced back to Homer’s “Odyssey.” In the epic poem, Mentor is a friend of Odysseus, left in charge of the household while the mythic king fights in the Trojan War. To help Odysseus finally return home from the war, the goddess Athena later disguises herself as Mentor to guide the king’s son, Telemachus, in search of his father. More than 2,000 years later, “mentor” entered the English language in reference to these two trusted advisors and guides.
Mentors are as important for young people today as they were in Ancient Greece. Yet, as MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership reports, 1 in 3 young people will grow up without ever having one. Quality mentoring relationships have a profound impact on young people in their personal, academic, and professional lives. According to MENTOR, young adults who were at-risk for falling off track but had a mentor are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions.
Juana Gómez knows first-hand the importance, joys, and challenges of mentoring. In 2010, the Boulder, Colorado resident began volunteering on special projects with “I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County“, which provides individualized social, emotional, and academic support to young people from low-income communities from 1st grade through college. In 2015, she started mentoring a middle-school student on a weekly basis and the two have been growing together ever since.
Juana is making a difference in her community through mentorship, and is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light spoke with Juana about her commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
The ability to give time back to my community serves as the biggest impetus for volunteering.
Describe your volunteer role
My main volunteer job at I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County (IHDF) consists of mentoring a student who is growing up with the many disadvantages of poverty, though with a very strong support system of family, school, and social services. I am part of that support network. We meet almost weekly and sometimes more. She was in 7th grade when we started. We go on outings to the museums, concerts, game park, craft activities. Sometimes she needs extra help with schoolwork (though she is an excellent student) and we work on that. I attend her and her family’s many activities at school, sports, and church and have become close to her parents, especially her mother. Along with visits and attendance, the student and I talk about life, cliques, being a teenager, budgeting, her plans for her future, the value of things such as punctuality. I see my job as offering one-on-one support, modeling adult behavior, and expanding her circle of experiences. And, of course, I feel that I get back as much as I give.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
Participating in the life of the student I mentor, contributing to her development, and becoming close to her siblings and parents
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
Providing continuity and stability in children’s lives will have lasting positive effects. Mentoring is a volunteer experience that may seem simple, but has many positive and long lasting impacts. Students who have mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. Youth with mentors are 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I look forward to continuing my mentoring and meeting new students to mentor in the years ahead.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Many programs and activities require monetary resources, but also giving of your time can have a tremendous impact on a community and on individuals’ lives.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
A neighborhood/town/city needs a strong foundation of social infrastructure. Volunteering is the corner stone of that structure.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Juana? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.