I want to take a moment and talk about mentors and their importance. A few weeks ago, the Community Foundation of Western Nevada reached out to me about a new program they are launching, Nevada Mentors.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had and still have so many mentors in my life that range from family and friends to professional colleagues and peers. These people taught me so much, and it is not uncommon for me to lean back in my office chair and think, “Now what would so-and-so do in this situation.”
It is estimated that 1 in 3 young people will grow up without a mentor, according to the National Mentoring Partnership. The need for mentors here in Washoe Valley may be even bigger.
That is where the Community Foundation of Western Nevada‘s new Nevada Mentors program comes in, as a central location to help address the need for and connect local agencies with volunteer mentors. At some of these agencies, the waiting list is over 200 kids long.
“At the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, we had started to do community-wide initiatives in addition to philanthropy,” said Nick Tscheekar, initiatives director at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. ”Our first initiative was called You’N-I, and was directed at the needs of youth that were homeless, aging out of foster care or runaways. Our role has been to work with a variety of different service providers, youths and government agencies – everyone who is invested in the issue to understand the needs of the youth who are struggling or at risk.”
“One of the things that emerged from that program was the importance of mentoring. Many of the kids talked about how they would value having a mentor in their life.” This research led to the launch of the Nevada Mentors program.
There are currently nine organizations as part of the Nevada Mentors program, with anticipation that the number of agencies will grow. Current organizations include: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada; Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows: Be Great Graduate Program; Dean’s Future Scholars; Eddy House: Cliff Climbers; Junior Achievement of Northern Nevada; The Trident Network at Sparks High School; Youth First Reno/Sparks; 360 Blueprint and the Washoe CASA Foundation.
So what are these kids looking for in a mentor? According to Tscheekar, the volunteer mentors are someone who will listen to them and help guide them not only through their daily life but in their future as well.
Now, you are thinking, “Really what can moms and dads do? We already have jobs and kids and soccer, and laundry piling up!” I get it. Let’s be straight – this is an investment in time, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be hours and months of time.
Certainly there is a need for one-on-one mentors. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a great example of excellent one-on-one mentoring here in Reno. But other organizations, such as Junior Achievement, are looking for mentors to teach classes or talk to mentees about how to find a job, prepare for an interview or learn about a career path. The Eddy House also has a 12-week Cliff Climbers Life and Career Coaching program that is looking for mentors that only requires an hour or so a week. So your investment of a few hours could make a huge impact for the teens in these programs. If you really want to jump in, Washoe CASA is looking for committed individuals to become a court-appointed advocate in our courts representing children and youth.
According to Nevada Mentors, potential volunteers can choose to work with groups or one-to-one with individuals of many age ranges, and participation can range anywhere from twice a month or more.
I get it if the timing isn’t right for you. Your kids might be too young or life might be too hectic right now. That’s ok. But maybe, just maybe, you know someone at the office or a friend who would be an awesome mentor. Or maybe this will work for you in a few years.
And, perhaps you know a child that needs a mentor or would benefit from one of these programs. Nevada Mentors can help with a list of resources and possible programs for the littlest kids up to college-age students.
Investing a little time now will go a long way to making our community stronger for our kids and ourselves.