Feb. 19, 2016: Think you’re just too busy to mentor a child? Think again, by Ashley Hutchinson

February 19, 2016 by

Ashley Hutchinson

Ashley Hutchinson

It wasn’t very long ago that I was asked to mentor a child. My first reaction is one that I’m not proud of: I’m just too busy, I thought. I have a preschooler, a toddler, a husband and a full-time job that comes with many evening meetings. Surely that justifies my hesitation?

Then I started listening to the community around me.

I heard that our local CASA — for Court-Appoint Special Advocates program — had 70 cases in Cloud County where they needed advocates for children. I listened to Jen Warkentin from Big Brothers, Big Sisters talk about the overwhelming need for adult mentors in our community.

The needs of both organizations aren’t going away, they are only getting bigger. And I was doing nothing to help.

What happens to our community when we are too busy to help with our kids in need? We see drug use and addiction problems, mismanagement of money and lack of work ethic.

Employers will often tell me their workforce needs are simple: They need someone who will show up on time, pass a drug test and want to work. In an age where we talk about being globally competitive by developing high tech skills, it seems odd that we struggle with such basic principles of being employable. These soft skills are taught most effectively in the home. When a parent is absent or maybe is unable to reach a child, a mentor can help.

The research is all there. An adult mentor can forever change the life of a child. According to youth.gov, a government website dedicated to strengthening opportunities for youth, the benefits from mentoring young people make a lengthy list:

increased high school graduation rates,
lower high school dropout rates,
healthier relationships and lifestyle choices,
better attitude about school,
higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations,
enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence,
improved behavior, both at home and at school,
stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers,
improved interpersonal skills, and
decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use.

The benefits are not just for the young person. Mentors benefit with increased self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, creation of networks of volunteers, insight into childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood and increased patience and improved supervisory skills.

I stopped making excuses and hiding behind my busy schedule. For the last six months, I have had the privilege of mentoring a young person. We have become comrades and my life has been enriched. The experience has completely changed my outlook on my job and my community.

We all have the power to make our community a better place and to make our people better. I challenge you to look in your neighborhood, church or family and find an opportunity to mentor. The good folks at CASA and Big Brothers, Big Sisters also stand ready to help match you with a young person in need.

It is time to focus our energy on the things we can change, and each one of us can identify a child in need of a mentor and dedicate a few hours a week to lend a helping hand.

 

— Ashley Hutchinson is the Executive Director of CloudCorp, Cloud County’s Economic Development Organization.

 

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