Mentoring Programs Impact Community Living for the Good

Article Contributed by
Lisa Yaggie

There is an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Pretty deep when you think about what that statement is really getting at. It should be acknowledged that it can be challenging at times to get through things alone. Asking others for help might come naturally to some but for others it is a hurdle to get over so that they can achieve success. January is National Mentoring Month here in the U.S., and is meant to help raise awareness of how important mentoring is to both the individuals involved and to our local community.

A mentoring program can be for all ages, all abilities or have a targeted population. Youth mentoring probably comes to mind first but there are programs available with many different focuses; seniors, women, mental health patients, veterans, for example. Jamestown Community College (JCC) offers three different kinds of mentoring programs, according to their website, Peer, Career and Leadership. Career mentoring has spawned an entire industry devoted to professional growth. Common amongst the many definitions of “mentoring” is that there are education, growth and rewards. What is interesting is that it applies to both the Mentee and Mentor.

There have been many studies done that tout all the benefits of participating in a mentor program. Findings show that mentees, who have someone consistent and trustworthy in their lives who can listen, be present, and/or give advice on a variety of topics, have a better likelihood of future success. The National Mentoring Partnership organization states on their website, “Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset.”

Being a mentor can provide a sense of purpose and connect you to the community in ways that help you understand other cultures and experience diversity. It often helps the mentor fulfill a personal goal to “give back” to their community.

Chautauqua Striders is well known throughout both northern and southern Chautauqua County as a standard of excellence in youth mentoring. Their mission statement says, “Chautauqua Striders is dedicated to the mentoring and guidance of youth through education, advocacy and athletics.” This highlights that the mentor relationship is more than just tutoring or helping with homework. While academic confidence is always a goal, being that mentee’s advocate can be equally impactful. Striders and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church are partnering to start a project-based (vs. the more traditional 1:1 method) mentorship program at Love School on Mondays beginning January 22. [http://chautauquastriders.org/] [www.stlukesjamestown.org].

Compeer Chautauqua is an example of a mentor program that has a very specific target audience. Sponsored by Southern Tier Environment for Living (STEL), Compeer has been matching trained volunteers with referred clients for one-to-one friendships. [www.stel.org/compeer]

In 2013, The United Way of Southern Chautauqua County had conducted a community status report and the findings confirmed that our county was seeing more “poverty, unemployment and dependency.” The United Way leadership team, along with Jane Cleaver Becker, formed a group called Coalition of Chautauqua County Women and Girls to help focus on how to improve the economic self-sufficiency for women in our area. One of the most important results of this group has been the creation of the currently active Women2Women Adult Mentoring Program.(www.uwayscc.org/women2women-adult-mentoring-program). Women helping support women is a powerfully affirmative experience. The YWCA Of Jamestown will be supporting The Women2Women AdultMentoring Program in the future.

We are fortunate in our area to have community support for mentoring programs. There are MANY opportunities and programs not mentioned above through schools, churches, places of employment; you just have to look. We hope you join us here at the Gazette and celebrate their positive impact on our lives.