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Mentoring Matters Can you make an extraordinary commitment to a child? What can you do to positively impact the lives of Baltimore's youth?

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This January, National Mentoring Month, is a good time to think about mentoring. Baltimore’s Child spoke with Tiffany Reinhardt, associate executive director of mentoring at The Y in Central Maryland, to learn more about the benefits of mentoring and the mentoring opportunities that exist within our community.

Tiffany Reinhardt | Image courtesy The Y in Central Maryland

Q: How does mentoring help youth expand their support networks and connect with adult role models?
A: Mentoring creates meaningful mentoring relationships that help youth to expand their network of support beyond their family, school and community. Mentors help youth to gain access to resources, learn life skills and help to develop “sparks”—a special quality, skill or interest that youth are passionate about. Through training, facilitating activities and support from the Y, youth are encouraged to identify other supports in their lives and to make more intentional connections to strengthen existing relationships. Mentoring also helps to unite youth and volunteers of varied backgrounds toward a common goal—helping them to achieve their highest potential.


Mentors in the Y’s mentoring program expose youth to cultural activities, connect youth to academic opportunities and provide “hands-on” training for skills such as woodworking and bicycle maintenance and safety. Mentors in our career and college readiness program, MentorU, provide guidance and feedback to youth on their matriculation through high school and journey to college. These mentors expand networks of support even further as they connect youth to potential internship opportunities, connect them to contacts in a field of interest and help them to develop their networking skills.

 

Q: What should parents look for in a mentor for their children?
A: Parents should look for qualities like enthusiasm, empathy and flexibility. One of the most important qualities in a mentor is consistency. The development of any relationship takes time, flexibility, understanding and patience. A mentor who shows up is a great indicator of longevity in the mentoring relationship, which leads to better outcomes.

 

Q: What would you say to individuals who have an interest in mentoring but may hesitate to move forward with that interest?
A: I would encourage those individuals to do their research first. Attend information sessions on mentoring programs and free training on topics about the mentoring relationship. Determine what the best fit for your lifestyle is and what impact you want to make. If you know you will be moving out of state soon or are expecting a new baby, it might not be the best time to commit to a year-long mentoring relationship. In terms of impact, do you want a more career-focused relationship or one where you hang out?

The Y provides regularly scheduled mentor training through the Maryland Mentoring Resource Center (MMRC). MMRC is open to all mentors and prospective mentors in Maryland and has trained thousands of mentors throughout the region.

 

Q: Describe the relationship between Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Y in Central Maryland. How does this mentoring program operate locally?
A: The Y is the local affiliate for Big Brothers Big Sisters throughout central Maryland. Big Brothers Big Sisters at the Y serves youth in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. Annually, we engage hundreds of volunteers who log thousands of volunteer service hours to mentor youth in community-based and virtual programs and help Maryland youth grow up to be confident, competent and caring.

 

Q: Approximately how many children are served by mentors through The Y and Big Brothers Big Sisters?
A: Big Brothers Big Sisters at the Y provides one-on-one mentoring for more than 600 Central Maryland children.

Beyond that, the Y in Central Maryland serves more than 125,000 children and youth through our 40 Head Start locations, six preschools, more than 50 before and after-school enrichment programs, 24 Community School sites, four mentoring programs, and 23 summer camps and programs, as well as the Health and Wellness centers. We are engaged daily in the healthy development of children and families.

 

Q: What are your current needs for adult mentors?
A: We currently have a waitlist of more than 800 children. We invite anyone interested in learning more about the commitment it takes to become a mentor by visiting
ymaryland.org/volunteer/mentoring.

For more information about becoming a mentor for youth in our community, contact The Y in Central Maryland at [email protected].

About Michael Vyskocil

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