Want to Mentor?

Whether you’ve got several hours a week in your schedule or only the occasional time slot, you can find a mentoring program that’s right for you.

By Beatrice Hogan • Editor
Michelle Obama mentoring photo
First Lady Michelle Obama's unique White House mentoring progam, in the February 2012 MORE.
Photograph: Photo courtesy of the White House.

Don't miss exclusive interview with Michelle Obama, in which she speaks in-depth for the first time about her deep commitment to mentoring, and why it's so important to her to pay it forward. In the February 2012 MORE, on sale now. Read it here.

Experts see mentoring as a cost-effective intervention for such social ills as drug and alcohol abuse, truancy and violence. Yet of the 18 million young people who want and need a caring adult in their lives, only three million have one, according to research by MENTOR: the National Mentoring Partnership (mentoring.org).

A good first stop for exploring traditional mentoring opportunities (either school- or community-based), MENTOR provides testimonials, how-to’s and a volunteer referral service. Whether you’re interested in becoming a Big Sister (bbbs.org), leading a group of Girl Scouts (girlscouts.org) or working with kids after school, you’ll find plenty of pathways. Ask if your company sponsors a mentoring program. Verizon, for example, has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters so employees can assist at-risk kids.

If your time is more limited, or face-to-face contact with the person you’re advising is logistically impractical, you can become an e-mentor, providing assistance via e-mail, chat rooms and other Internet tools. For example, I Could Be (icouldbe.org) pairs professionals with middle- and high-school students who are in danger of dropping out of school. The on-line program, which is integrated with classroom work, requires a one-hour-a-week commitment from mentors, who can log into the system 24/7, depending on their schedules.

There are currently 1,500 volunteers who work in fields ranging from medicine to technology to retail. Michelle Derosier, I Could Be program director, says that by the end of the year, most mentees have a college essay or job resume they can use. “But all these things—resume prep, college prep, advice about getting into the work world—are secondary,” Derosier says. “The most important thing mentors do is cheerleading. They might be the first person to take that much time with the student.”

Another online service, MentorNet (mentornet.net), targets older students—women and underrepresented minorities on campuses, from first-year college students to post-docs—who are seeking careers in engineering and the sciences. The program recruits sponsors from companies such as Intel, AT&T, 3M, then connects professionals with protégés. MentorNet guides the relationship by offering weekly discussion suggestions and other resources.

“Our corporate sponsors understand the triple value,” says CEO David Porush. “Encouraging diversity in the fields of science and engineering; having a direct relationship over the Web, and how powerful this can be for the rising generation; and, finally, getting first dibs on new talent.”

Don't miss our exclusive interview with Michelle Obama, in which she speaks in-depth for the first time about her deep commitment to mentoring, and why it's so important to her to pay it forward. Read it here.

Click here to see behind-the-scenes photos from Michelle Obama's mentoring program.

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First Published January 6, 2012

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