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We are all mentors by Cliona McMenamin

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction” – John Crosby. Each parent’s happiness is to see their children transitioning successfully through the different life stages. Mentoring can help the youth to overcome all stressful life stages at home, school, community, and transitioning to adulthood. Apart from helping the youth in their future careers, mentoring is essential in their daily lives.

Mentors are nothing new or unheard of in education. They are parents, advisers, teachers, and guides about classes, careers, jobs and life choices. Above all, mentors are motivators and role models, who believe in their mentees, see their potential and help them get to where they want to go. During my career path, I would not be where I am today without my mentors.

It’s that time of the school year again. I’m sitting in my classroom thinking about the opportunities and events that we, as a school community, can organise for the students during the next academic year. The year 8 girls who were lucky enough to successfully join our Big Sister mentoring programme have just completed their first mentoring session with our fantastic volunteer mentors and have loved every minute of it, but what are the benefits of mentoring?

Benefits of mentoring

Mentorship programs take different forms, and they help shape the vision of young people to achieve their dreams. For women and girls, mentorship can help them to dare in areas that have been traditionally been preserved for men. A study conducted by Anderson et al. (2019) reported that mentoring in STEM-related careers or education had a positive impact on STEM persistence. Therefore, mentorship helps our girls to widen their scope in fields that have traditionally been male-dominated. Apart from STEM, mentorship can elevate our girls to take leadership positions in various institutions and the government and leadership in diverse sports activities. Notably, men continue to be dominant models in sports, but elite student-athletes can inspire many girls to shine in sports (Ronkainen et al., 2019). Young boys and girls can benefit from mentoring by learning to interact with others and make the best out of their lives.

Importance of real-life models

In the contemporary world, the youth have a wide variety of mentors that can motivate them to attain their goals. Unlike in the past, many women are in powerful positions and successful careers from whom young girls can draw inspiration. When young girls see women in influential positions, they strive to work harder to be like their mentors. Nothing can be as satisfying as seeing young girls thirsting for success and wanting to be like the present-day celebrities and leaders in various fields. We have a responsibility to inspire our girls in our daily lives. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing women in different fields taking the mentorship mantle to inspire young people to dare to dream. It is these dreams that inspire young girls to defy the odds and the challenges posed in society to be successful. Minority women in leadership positions have also played a vital role in inspiring girls from racial minority groups to make it in fields traditionally believed to be male-dominated (Amina & Ibrahim, 2019). Notably, powerful and influential women in society mentor millions of girls globally. The former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, media personality Oprah Winfrey, and former presidential candidate Hilary Clinton are just a few of the women role models for millions of girls globally. More women in the fields of sports like Serena Williams or Jessica Ennis-Hill, in the entertainment industry like Beyonce Knowles or Taylor Swift, and in other fields continue to inspire millions of girls globally.

Life goals and career prospects

I believe that we all have a role to ensure that young girls in various areas of society have a wider picture of life. Mentoring involves the daily activities that inspire women to overcome the problems in society. I believe that girls need a strong foundation that will help them overcome the challenges posed by the patriarchal society we currently live in. We must quash the existing stereotypes about jobs designated for women and demystify the belief that some jobs are too complex for women. Demonstrating to our young girls that they have all it takes to be anything they want to be is enough. This mentorship can help in changing their mindsets for the better. We need to prepare our girls to take up any roles they feel inspired to take without making them feel that they are preserved only for men. Mentoring should be a normal part of a student's education. It should start early so that the youth can expand their scope of imagination and aim higher in life and work to attain their career goals. We need to stimulate young people to make the right choices, assist in developing skills, progress in educational outcomes, and develop attributes that encourage citizenship.

Everyone’s a mentor

As a mentor, your role is simple: provide guidance, motivation, support, and role modelling to young people within your circle. You do not need to be the president of an organization, a celebrity, or an influential figure in society for you to be a mentor. Young people need guidance on choosing the best career paths that suit their dreams, setting goals, and developing contacts for their future use. As a mentor, you have a responsibility of helping the youth discover resources that can help them realize their career goals and dreams. Each young person out there needs a mentor to steer them in the right direction regarding their career goals and life prospects in general – you can be that mentor. Not all students managed to get a place in our mentoring programme but that does not mean they don’t have a mentor. All adults in different careers and roles can be their mentors. They can help all younger people to work towards attaining their dreams. We must talk to them about their future and make sure they reach for the stars. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year brings and seeing all of our students empowered on the next stage of their journey. As the saying goes, "the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow." And I can’t wait to see these leaders!

Reference List

Amina, B. Z. J., & Ibrahim, S. G. (2019). Role of African Women Leaders in inspiring women participation in leadership: AN analysis. African Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Research, 2(3), 12-27.

Anderson, M. K., Anderson, R. J., Tenenbaum, L. S., Kuehn, E. D., Brown, H. K., Ramadorai, S. B., & Yourick, D. L. (2019). The benefits of a near-peer mentoring experience on STEM persistence in education and careers: A 2004-2015 study. Journal of STEM Outreach, 2(1), 1-11.

Ronkainen, N. J., Ryba, T. V., & Selänne, H. (2019). “She is where I’d want to be in my career”: Youth athletes’ role models and their implications for career and identity construction. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 45, 101562.

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