by Corey Ponder, Guest Blogger
I’d like to think that my passions could change lives. While many of them happen to center around food, one actually isn’t about food at all. It’s about service. Through my passion to serve, I’ve learned that the best way to change lives is to invest in one.
The lives I have chosen to invest in mirror mine – at least in gender and race. Each mentor experience I’ve had in Washington, D.C. has come with questions: “Will they like me?” “Will I be out of touch?” …and the list goes on.
Like a popularity contest, the answers to these questions can be superficial representations of what it means to be qualified to impact a young man’s life.
Even though these questions can be important, the more immediate question should have really been for me- and for any other young professional: “Am I (really) ready for this?”
I believe that if you have the desire to make a difference, and the will to see it through, then that answer is an emphatic yes.
Dedicating your time is like laying solid groundwork. Passion establishes the foundation on which the relationship would stand.
While mentoring with City Year’s City Heroes and Young Heroes program, I watched the youth respond to the mentors every weekend.
I realized the most important program aspect was simply our presence. Not just our physical presence, but being present mentally and emotionally as well. Our relationship truly blossomed when I made it clear that the relationship was a priority.
My passion helped cultivate the relationship as well. When I transitioned beyond simply a body in the room and actually invested part of myself in the discussions, the youth responded. I expressed empathy and not simply being an observer. I experienced the relationship and not just witnessed it.
Consistency and patience served as the factors that helped the relationship grow and persevere.
While mentoring with Thurgood Marshall Academy, I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate an amazing relationship with a high school junior for nearly two years.
I have come to appreciate the expectation and excitement in my mentee’s voice when we discuss plans to spend time together. I believe my mentee values follow-through over a sustained period of time – whether that is calling when I say I will or finding time to spend together. Consistency is synonymous with sincerity about your intentions.
Patience is also essential. As a mentor I’ve served many roles – counselor, listener, tutor, and yes, problem solver. But patience is allowing your mentee to take your support on his own terms and repeating yourself when it’s needed.
So, if you realize that you have time, passion, consistency, and patience – you are equipped to be a mentor.
There are communities out there that need you – like our young men of color. As the recently announced “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative of President Obama’s highlights, there is a problem when 86 percent of African American boys and 82 percent Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels, or are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers.
So don’t allow the wrong question to distract you from the impact you can have in someone’s life. You will be ready when you discover your desire for change and the will to make it happen.
Join Friends of Ebonie for the Changing the Face of Philanthropy Summit June 27 and 28. The Summit will feature a mentoring track that will challenge and encourage your thoughts and actions around mentoring. Most excitedly, the new My Brother’s Keeper Initiative along with Echoing Green will host Friday’s keynote lunch. Registration for the Summit opens April 14.
Corey is the founder of Collected Young Minds, a platform that focuses on giving young writers a platform to explore their talents and voices, and spotlights the work that young people are doing in various forums in society. Corey is passionate about several things and he blogs about all of them, tweets about some of them, and is apologetic about none of them. Corey currently works as a policy analyst in DC, and also spends time mentoring at Thurgood Marshall Academy and volunteering his time with community nonprofit District Team Charities and other community endeavors. Keep up with him on Twitter: @SpkTruth2Pwr, @CYMengage; Facebook: fb.com/CYMengage