This November, I am reminded of my mentor/mentee relationship and the various figures throughout my life who have positively impacted my development.
I received my first mentor when I was six years old. I had just transferred to a new school, and every kid between kindergarten and second grade was matched with a student six years older than them. My buddy, like me, was a new student. I do not remember much of our time together, but I do remember how he made me feel more comfortable in a new space. When I entered sixth grade, I had my own opportunity to be a buddy for a kindergartner. My buddy, David, liked to run and play soccer with his best friend Max, but outside of running, he was a very shy kid. I remember trying to coax him out of his shell and introducing him to my friends and their buddies. By the end of our third year together, he had begun to open up more. These were still formative years for me. I might have been the older role model, but I was still just a kid, and as David matured, so did I. Helping another kid and sharing advice and experience helped me to grow as a person and empathize with another human. I believe that nurturing feeling of empathy is critical for proper emotional development, and I am incredibly grateful that my school built this opportunity into its culture.
Throughout high school, I had a variety of mentors. From my tennis and rugby coaches to my community service director, a wide range of adults shaped and influenced my life and development. Most of these relationships were cultivated through recreational activities, and the lessons I learned often came when my mentors were not trying to teach me anything, but merely sharing their experiences. This just goes to show the power behind positive adult role models. Not everyone has to be in a formal mentoring program to be a mentor, and not every mentor needs to intend mentoring as their primary goal. Simply being there for young people can have a tremendous impact.
To all the mentors out there, both formal and informal, thank you for all that you do. Your work matters and can go on to influence a child for the rest of their life.