Can you remember a time when someone encouraged you to keep pushing on during challenging times or inspired you with their knowledge and life experiences? Has anyone ever given you personal or professional development tips or helped you set goals for yourself? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you should take the time to thank your mentor!  

January is National Mentoring Month, so it’s the perfect time to reflect on those who have mentored you in the past and consider mentoring someone who needs the support.

Having positive and supportive relationships is vital to achieving success and happiness in life. Research shows that loneliness and isolation are trending upwards during the pandemic, especially for youth, and we know that relationships are particularly powerful in combating this negativity. By developing relationships with others, especially an optimistic mentor, we can come together and create greater connections and opportunities.  

We aren’t meant to navigate life alone. Humans are social creatures, and it’s important to have access to adult relationships outside of families. Mentoring unites us. It is so crucial to happiness and success in life that President Joe Biden Jr. proclaimed January 2022 as National Mentoring Month. In his public statement, President Biden writes, “We all benefit from the support, wisdom, and nurturing of mentors who navigated the path before us. By standing on the shoulders of mentors, young people have led America forward at each inflection point in our history.” 

No matter where we are in life, we can benefit from the wisdom of mentors who have greater life experiences. Mentors help us to learn and grow in all aspects of our lives. Let’s lift young people on our shoulders and help them navigate these uncertain times.  

Children’s Home and Aid Mentoring Initiatives  

At Children’s Home and Aid, we know the importance of a mentorship program for our youth. Mentoring is not the easiest work, but very necessary work. We proudly support mentoring initiatives and provide several programs to encourage mentor/mentee relationships, including Thriving Fathers and Families, mentoring alongside clinical supports in our residential therapy center, and the new EMPath Mobility Mentoring program. 

In the Thriving Fathers and Families program, every father has the ability to improve their own lives as well as that of their children, families, and their communities. Recently our program has expanded to fathers living in the greater Englewood and North Lawndale communities of Chicago as well as central and northern Illinois communities like Bloomington and Rockford. Often the fathers who come to this program need mentoring and guidance in specific areas like employment, co-parenting and mental health challenges––barriers that we acknowledge and break down together. But it’s not just our staff leading those transformational conversations. Dads in the program also mentor each other, listening and offering valuable insights from their own lived experiences. 

“It’s just, I’ve had momentous change because of this program. Because of my brothers. They sit and they talk to me. They don’t talk at me. Nobody in here put nobody down. And this is one of the greatest things that a father needs.”  

~ Dad in our fatherhood programming

Young people need support in so many ways––everything from dealing with community violence, health and wellness, and navigating everyday life. For instance, the young people at our Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Child & Family Center require deep therapeutic support as the children who live here often have severe mental and behavioral health challenges. Along with the key clinical support, art therapy and mentoring also play a major role in unlocking success for these young people as they prepare to transition into a family life situation. 

Melvyn Tate, a longtime coordinator at Rice, will celebrate 43 years with the center this May. When asked about what fuels his fire for the work, he shared, “The main thing that struck me when I came in for my interview back in 1978 there were a lot of Black kids, but no Black men.”  

Melvyn went on to say, “I thought, ‘How can these kids get healthy if they don’t see anybody who looks like them doing good things?’ It felt wrong.” Melvyn reflected further, “They need to have a Black man in their lives that they can sit with, and talk to, and trust—someone that looks and talks like them. It shows them there are options out in the world.”  

Melvyn is excited about the journey ahead. “Today we have a lot of staff in the building who can also be examples of strong, caring, safe Black men for these kids,” he noted. Melvyn has not only impacted hundreds of children over the years through his guidance and mentorship, he now also trains new generations of staff who are following in his footsteps.  

Our work is constantly evolving, and that means always looking for new ways to engage and support families. For example, we’ve piloted the use of the EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring coaching model at Children’s Home & Aid. This program, based on a decade of research and development, allows coaching to be participant-led to create goals, economic mobility and finally, self-sufficiency over time. An important part of this program is recognition for achieving these goals and moving forward in life. As we all know, a little encouragement goes a long way and our agency is always crafting and refining its tools and best practices in order to deliver best potential outcomes. Hard times can truly find anyone and we want to provide meaningful, respectful dialogue that strengthens individuals and their families. 

“My mentors have been my biggest cheerleaders. When you don’t complete a goal, they understand that life happens, that some things are in your control and some aren’t. Mutual respect goes a long way. I hope families in shelters now have awesome mentors like I did and that they succeed.” 

~ EMPath Participant

Mentors play an integral role in our lives, and no matter what stage of life we are in, we can benefit from the guidance, knowledge, and positivity that mentorship provides. You can support our various mentorship programs by donating to Children’s Home and Aid today. Help us recognize and support our mentors this January and beyond!