Why Mentoring Works

              By: Nissim Hayes, Youth Mentor

Mentoring is way more important than people realize. Most positions in people’s lives are filled or are properly acknowledged but mentoring tends to fall by the wayside. We recognize the importance of a good parental figure and how that can influence an individual for the rest of their life. We understand that having friends is crucial to healthy development and socialization. We acknowledge that teachers are an irreplaceable tenet of cultivating children, and we love that coaches push our loved ones to be their best. We even are valuing therapists and mental health professionals more as we see that their early involvement can protect youth from strife and help guide them through confusing times.

We want the best for the youngest members of our friends and family and we have been told for decades now that “it takes a village” to raise them. However, there is one position in the village that tends to go unnoticed but is just as influential as its other members. The role of a mentor and the power that can hold. Someone that doesn’t have authority over your life, like parents do. An individual that can be more consistent and mature than friends of similar age. A person that can have closer emotional ties than a teacher, coach, or therapist. Someone whose sole interest is in the individual being the best version they can be but not bringing in the possibility of disappointment that is always present when you’re dealing with other members of the village. Being unable to meet the expectations of a mentor has gentler consequences, hopefully enabling them to take even more risks beneficial to their growth as a person.

Finding a mentor at the age of 15 was one of the best decisions young me could have made. My mentor was my supervisor who was a few years older than me and noticed work traits that some of our older coworkers hadn’t shown. After being lambasted with the values of hard work and doing my best every day by my parents my whole life, particularly during the few weeks preceding my first job, it was time to finally put those theories into action. What did it mean to work hard? How do you show someone else that you are genuinely trying to be your best every day? Sometimes, words are just words, but how can I prove it?

To me, my only course of action would be to do the simple things first and to the best of my ability. Showing up on time and doing what I was told. If I didn’t understand something, ask questions until I did. If I made a mistake, hold myself accountable instead of trying to shift the blame. I will admit my parents did set me up with a good foundation, but it was my mentor that showed me what these values meant and how people outside of my family were going to interpret them. He put me in positions to challenge me, by the nature of being someone I had to report to at work but also being someone who genuinely cared about my development as a person. He gave me more responsibility since I showed I was reliable and punctual. He let me make decisions regarding work since I was willing to ask questions and admit faults. He even supported me outside of the workplace, allowing me to talk to him about the things stressing out a 15-year-old high schooler.

All without the embarrassment of talking to a parent or disappointing them. All without trying to open up to like-minded or similarly aged friends and being let down because they are only so mature themselves. All without the risk of letting down my coach and teammates in a game situation or feeling uncomfortable saying the wrong thing to a teacher. My mentor was the first person to grant me the feeling of being treated as an adult with my own agency and of having my own thoughts that deserved respect.