Have you approached someone to be your mentor, or considered someone who could be your mentee?
We need to discover what it means for a young person to have a mentor. Would they even consider such a thing, especially those in secondary school (ages 12–17) when they’re constantly struggling for personal freedom and to be allowed to make decisions for themselves?
As a member of the youth team in Leaderonomics, I have observed in our camps the constant need for young people to connect with one another, and to build relationships up to a personal level of honesty, sharing, and encouragement.
Young people can excel if they are mentored well. A mentor can appear in so many ways. In fact, we are mentored indirectly whenever we engage in personal communication.
When I talk to a father-of-two, for example, I receive mentorship as to how a father leads his life. When I talk to a business person, I learn about the person and how he runs a business.
Engaging in a mentorship is a key factor for growth
I believe many would agree that being mentored means being open for growth. In psychology, there is a theory called scaffolding. It basically states that a mentor becomes a scaffold during the learning process and supports the needs of mentees in order to help them achieve their goals. Once the mentee has become autonomous, the support is reduced gradually, allowing for a much accelerated growth.
Research shows that youths who have a mentor do better in school academically and socially, are willing to participate in school activities and have a better attitude towards life.
In our camps, by utilising the idea of mentorship, we keep to a healthy camper to faculty ratio (7:1), and the main facilitator will stay with the group throughout the whole duration of camp.
We have seen campers who grow exponentially and learn to take up responsibilities. By simply introducing a mentor in the group, youths get a better grasp of what they are expected to do and how they can grow themselves as leaders. They invariably fall back on mentors when they have a question, and that relationship alone makes camp an unforgettable experience.
Engaging in a mentorship means allowing another person to challenge our views
Mentorship, however, is not a bed of roses. A relationship involves more than one person, thus conflict is bound to happen.
In the movie Karate Kid (1984), we see a fine example of mentorship whereby a boy called Daniel is taken under the wing of a karate master, sensei Miyagi. Sometimes mentorship can be perceived as being asked to do a series of seemingly meaningless tasks.
In the movie, Daniel is appalled when he is made to sand the deck of the house, wax the car and paint the fence – instead of learning “proper” karate drills. But he doesn’t quit, and in the end he realises he is learning something useful that he will use to destroy his bully.
This brings me to my point that our views will be challenged, and as a mentee, it’s sometimes hard to see the reason behind it. There are also mentors who challenge their mentees to have trust even when the latter cannot see the reason, at least for a short period of time.
A good mentor helps us to build the foundation towards our goals, and the important part of each challenge is for the mentee to understand the value of the process, not just the end result. Each challenge is presented to result in either one of two ways, to strengthen our resolve towards an idea or to lead us to review the idea so we can better serve the purpose of our goal.
While being challenged, mentees learn a myriad of new characters. Characters such as patience, honesty, faithfulness, submission, resilience and respect.
A good mentor understands that a person can learn important lessons even if they fail, as long as the person does not give up and stay down after the failure.
At the end of the day, the heart of the problem is always the problem of the heart.
Once the heart is dealt with, youths will developed a good foundation to make good decisions, learn how to handle the different stresses in life, to respond instead of react, and respect views and inputs that are not their own.
Building each other’s life
As I have alluded to above, building up the character of a person is the main point of mentorship, and challenges that are present in the lives of a mentee is an added opportunity to work on their character. Especially in this era of technology, the one thing that youths need to learn is the ability to communicate well on a face-to-face basis.
And because all healthy relationships are two-way streets, the mentors also stand to benefit. Besides building patience, patience, and more patience, they also increase their supervisory skills and wisdom, as they learn to facilitate rather than to take lead.
This means that they might have to go through instances where the mentee decides to do something that will not bring benefit to the goal, and still be able to allow for that to happen because some lessons in life need to be attained through personal experience.
So while we continue to build youth leaders through our camp and club initiatives, and through the mentorship idea, maybe it is time for you to think of someone you can approach to be your mentor, and to consider someone who would be your mentee.
So go out there, make a difference in another person’s life. You will soon realise that in the process of doing that, your own life will change for the better too.
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Alvin’s personal passion lies in community & personal development, believing that the community at large can do its share to make this world a better place. He plans to continue developing his expertise in counselling in order to assist and empower youths and families. To engage with us on your thoughts on mentorship, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Starting Young articles, click here.