January is National Mentoring Month

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January is National Mentoring Month

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Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide,” and during the month of January, which is National Mentoring Month, special attention was given to the act of counseling and guiding children through mentoring.
Nationalmentoringmonth.org is the official website for National Mentoring Month, which just experienced its 11th anniversary. NMM was created in 2002 by Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR-The National Mentoring Partnership.
The purpose of National Mentoring Month is to “focus on the need for mentors,” according to NMM’s website. Goals for achieving this include recruiting new mentors, and encouraging organizations to engage the public, thereby promoting the growth of mentoring and mentoring awareness.
NMM has gained the support of President Obama, members of Congress and celebrities such as Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Usher and many more.
There are many ways to get involved in mentoring here in Macon. Downtown Macon is home to the non-profit organization the Mentors Project. The Executive Director of the Mentors Project, June O’Neal, said, “The Mentors Project’s goal is to reduce the Drop Out Rate and improve the Graduation rate, as we prepare students for post secondary education.”
A popular program among Mercerians such as Laurel Duvall and her roommate, Audrey Overton, is Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Duvall met Shenelle, the young girl she mentors, through her FYS-X tutoring program, and at Bear Fair, Laurel saw a Big Brothers Big Sisters table, where students could get more information about mentoring.
“Since the tutoring is only your freshman year, I wouldn’t have seen Shenelle anymore, so this was like a way to see her,” explained Duvall. However, she became more interested in the program when Overton heard about it.
Overton’s “little sister’s” name is Haley, and she was originally the “little sister” of Overton’s FYS-X Peer Advisor, Maggie McCampbell. But when McCampbell went to graduate school, she wanted someone to continue working with Haley. “I decided to take over, and that’s how I met Haley,” said Overton.
In the first year of mentoring, mentors are required to spend a certain number of hours per month with their “little” in order to get to know them. “As you start to get to know the other person, it becomes a lot easier to just sit down and actually talk to them,” said Duvall.
Shenelle is very talkative, according to Duvall, and she is beginning to open up more, so they do not always have to do things now. Shenelle and Duvall are able to just sit and have conversations as if they were actually sisters.
“Laurel and I are both the community based [mentoring] which just means we’re not in the classroom with them. We don’t do as much school work,” Overton explained. They can just hang out and be together.
The community based mentoring does demand more hours, cautioned Overton, and Duvall emphasized that mentoring can be hard and demanding. “There are ups and downs, I think,” confessed Duvall, explaining that Shenelle has her good days and bad days. But overall, both Duvall and Overton agreed that it is rewarding, and they each love their “little sister.”
“The hardest part is seeing the circumstances that these girls are in,” said Overton. These children can have social struggles and family struggles, and they can live in poor locations.
“It’s wonderful that you can take these girls out of the life they do live in, even if it is for just a few hours every week. You do see them change,” Duvall said.  Recommending that despite the time commitment, others should mentor.
It doesn’t take much to make a little child happy, but it is important to have the heart for it, Overton remarked.
If you would like to get involved with mentoring, you can visit georgiamentoring.org to find programs available in the Macon area. According to Duvall and Overton, it is a great opportunity for college students, and Big Brothers Big Sisters especially makes the process easy by coming to campus to conduct interviews, etc.
Many other Mercerians mentor, and just because it is no longer National Mentoring Month, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved!

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