In addition to the commendable love for learning and plans for the far-reaching future, there’s something significant that stands out in this brief biographical sketch of Anthony Clendenen, a teen who was recently selected to receive the Cogito Research Award from Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. Honored for his initiative, creativity, and promise, this remarkable teen mentions the place that several mentors have had in shaping his early success.
Even teens who aren’t budding engineers can benefit from mentorship. Perhaps they’ll never invent a life-saving masterpiece of robotics, but mentorship can literally save their lives.
Who Needs Mentors
All teens can benefit from mentorship, but at-risk teens or teens with disabilities can be especially helped through such relationships. Youth who have gone through hardships or have otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds particularly benefit from mentorship, but fewer than half of teens can name an adult mentor.
However, those with positive mentoring relationships with adults other than their parents have proven to be less likely to engage in substance abuse or break the law in any way. The relational support provided by such mentorship is particularly key in helping teens with difficult backgrounds overcome the odds and leverage their skills to persevere. A major plus is that teens from disadvantaged backgrounds who are mentored are twice as likely to attend college as their non-mentored peers.
Who Can Be a Mentor
Everyone is a potential mentor! The difference between someone who is a mentor and someone who isn’t typically boils down to a single characteristic: willingness. You don’t have to have it all together or be perfect or have a certain skill set in order to influence others; you just have to be willing to get involved in someone else’s life. That takes self-sacrifice and communication skills, both of which can be learned.
Maybe you could be a spiritual mentor and go through a Bible study book together. If that’s not your comfort zone, perhaps you could mentor a teen in your profession or even a hobby. (If a teen doesn’t have a parent who hunts or sews, for instance, honing such a skill can be quite difficult.)
Alternatively, you could mentor a teen in life skills such as cooking a balanced meal, balancing a check book, or setting personal goals and working toward them. Often, though, mentorship simply involves spending time with a teen and providing direction and assistance through example and the wisdom that comes from personal experience.
As long as you are older than a teen and have more experience in at least one area, you can be a mentor. The big question is: Are you willing? (Peer mentorship can also be helpful but simply won’t offer the same depth as adult mentors are able to offer.)
In Part 2, we’ll look at some particular benefits of mentorship as well as different types.