Can a simple mentoring relationship rescue a life in peril? In a world with few easy solutions, there are innumerable stories -- and a new survey -- that demonstrate this could be possible. Let's start with one of these stories.
As one of the coordinators of the White House Mentorship Program I was moved by HandsOn Greater DC Cares' new initiative to encourage for-profit corporations to provide mentoring opportunities for under-served youth in the Greater D.C. Community. The organization demonstrates the importance of bringing public and private sectors to together to better serve our communities.
John Urbigkit has service in his blood. He has volunteered as an EMT medic, Boy Scout leader and even earned a Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War. But it is his role as a Senior Corps volunteer with the Southeast Wyoming Foster Grandparent Program that earned this community hero a distinguished honor that brought him to Washington, DC.
Today, too many young people in America are struggling. More than a million students drop out of high school each year and one in every three do not graduate on time. The problem is even more severe among African American and Latino youth, and those from low-income backgrounds.
We would all like to believe we control our own destiny. But experiences teach us we are sometimes shaped by forces outside ourselves: the opportunities we encounter, the people we meet, those who mentor us, and the communities that surround us. This is not to say that our paths are prescribed—but that we need the skills to recognize and seize opportunities that come our way.
America's young people have always been a particular passion of mine. Maybe it's because I have three children or perhaps it's because I work with a staff of young professionals who keep me thinking young. In working with young people, I've come to hold one truth above all: the youth of America have the power to change the world if we give them the tools, the mentorship, and the opportunity to do it.
Each new year draws millions to make resolutions designed to change their lives. And while the focus on self-improvement is fine, the arrival of National Mentoring Month gives us an opportunity to recognize men and women who channel their energy to helping and inspiring young people toward a brighter future.
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