By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Earlier this month, a fifth-grader from Dorchester named Fatoumata visited my office. She told me about her favorite types of ice cream, her favorite subjects in school, and her plans to go to college, become a human rights lawyer, and eventually run for U.S. Senate. She’s got big goals for her future, and I have every confidence that she will achieve her dreams. Fatoumata also told me about her support system. Her family loves her, she’s got great teachers at the Dever Elementary School, and she also has a mentor named Claire, a Boston College student who meets with Fatoumata every week.
Mentorship can be an incredible resource for kids like Fatoumata. She told me, “The best thing about being a mentee is that I can open up to Claire… and she’ll listen. She helps me with my homework and we do lots of fun things together.”
Fatoumata and Claire are one of about 2,500 mentor-mentee pairs that meet regularly through an initiative that is very near to my heart: the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement. In 2014, my office partnered with Mass Mentors, a nationally-recognized youth empowerment non-profit based here in Boston. We wanted to work together to increase the number of adult mentors and role models in the lives of Boston’s youth. We set an ambitious goal of recruiting 1,000 new mentors and pairing them with young Bostonians to form enriching and empowering relationships. Since then, the program has grown steadily. Now, we’re launching a new push to recruit more mentors, with a special emphasis on increasing the number of City of Boston employees who take part in the program.
Mentors provide social and emotional support that can help kids during crucial developmental years. They help young people explore their interests and follow their academic and professional dreams. They can expose them to great opportunities like potential jobs and internships, and help them prepare for interviews and build important professional skills.
This kind of support can have significant impacts on a young person’s life. Recent studies show that children who have a mentor are less likely to skip school, drink alcohol, or do illegal drugs. They are more likely to participate in sports and extracurricular activities, and they tend to be more engaged in school, and more likely to go to college.
Mentoring is also an incredibly enriching experience for the mentor. You learn what young people are dealing with and thinking about today. You reflect on your own journey and the advice you got, or wished you got. You get more connected to the community.
To me, growing the number of mentors in our City is one of the most important investments we can make in our future. It has benefits for the entire community. It can be as important as our work to make housing more affordable for working families; to build a stronger, more equitable public transit system; and to make our schools the best they’ve ever been. Mentorship is a big priority for me, and I’m encouraging more people to get involved. Right now, we’re calling on adults in Boston to consider becoming a mentor as a part of the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement.
Mentoring can take many forms. We partner with 20 organizations to create a network of mentorship across all of Boston’s neighborhoods. Mentors offer support according to their mentees’ interests and needs. Mentors do community-based activities with their mentees, provide academic tutoring and career readiness advice, and accompany their mentees to local cultural and educational destinations like museums and plays.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Movement is helping us grow a culture of youth empowerment in Boston. When I asked Fatoumata if she wanted to become a mentor someday, she said “Most definitely. I want to help young children, and I want them to feel like they belong. There are some people that don’t have the opportunity of having someone to talk to, or having someone to play around with. So I definitely think I’ll become a mentor.”
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, and would like to learn more about the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement, go to Boston.gov/mentor. You can also watch my conversation with Fatoumata to see how important mentorship is to a young person. Together, we can empower all our youth, and inspire a whole generation of Bostonians to be themselves, follow their dreams, and become active members of our community.
Guest Op-Ed: Calling all mentors: Help make a difference in the lives of Boston’s children
By Mayor Martin J. Walsh