“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:16
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2011 National Mentoring Summit: Achieving Academic and Social Success – Supporting Youth through Mentoring at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. With approximately 500 attendees, I braved the cold and the Washington DC Metro Station (for my first time alone) to connect with others who are passionate about assisting youth and are unwilling to settle for the status quo.
The conference was partially hosted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (under the Department of Justice). The OJJDP is pouring approximately 20% of their annual operational budget into youth mentoring programs because they believe mentoring is a proactive solution to keep kids out of jail. The percentages of kids in custody and getting expelled from school are staggering. (For more details concerning this epidemic, check out my series post entitled, “A Way Up for African-American Boys Series.”) Youth with mentors have higher grades and are less likely to us drugs and alcohol. Here are two of the highlights of my conference experience:
At the end of my first workshop, I turned around to find Susan Taylor, the founder of Essence Magazine, sitting directly behind me. Since it’s Black History Month, I’ll tell you that her biography reveals that “she was the first and only African-American Women to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America.” Currently, she is leading the National CARES Mentoring Movement. She was very gracious to me, gave me a warm hug, as she asked about my family and home life. I thanked her for all that she has done to lay the foundation for women who look like me.
The second surprise of the day was revealed when First Lady Michelle Obama was announced as our afternoon keynote speaker. (In person, she looks exactly the same as she does on television, and “Yes, she was wearing shirt sleeves.”) After the First Lady spoke, she hugged all of the mentees who sat on stage (most of them were middle school aged children). One young African-American girl squeezed the First Lady tightly and then released, grabbed her again to rub up and down her back, and then released, then she clung to the First Lady for a third time before she finally let go. My happiness was not a result of being in the same room with the First Lady, but I smiled wide (and almost shed a tear) as this little girl who has practically no concern for politics, healthcare, or war, embraced the First Lady of the United States (who is a woman of color just like her) to simply say, “Thank you.” It is a moment that young lady will remember for the rest of her life.
The power of influence has an amazing affect on young people’s lives…that’s what mentoring is – influence – that’s what mentoring does – effects lives.
I was informed on last week that January 25th is “Thank Your Mentor” Day. I didn’t know it, but I do know that we don’t need a special day to thank others who have had a profound impact in our others.
Take some time this weekend to consider your mentors. Write a note, send an email, or buy some flowers. Will you?
If you are not already mentoring a young person (this includes your own child(ren) of course), will you also consider that this weekend?
How has mentoring changed your life?
Blessings until next time, Natasha
© Natasha L. Robinson 2011
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