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Originally published: 2014-01-16 10:00:45
Last modified: 2014-01-16 10:02:16

Our View: Friend, comrade, teacher - mentor

We have all achieved some measure of success in our life, and with little doubt those achievements were not gathered completely on our own. Somewhere along the way, whether in the background or foreground, there was someone with experience, compassion and a gift for friendship who took us in hand and positively influenced the decisions and actions we made. 

That person may have been a favorite teacher, an uncle, coach or a friend of the family, but in every case that person was one thing to us -- a mentor.

January is national mentoring month, and as such, it is appropriate to espouse on the virtues of mentorship, and especially on the values of mentoring a young person. Students, for example, who regularly spend time with their mentors are 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school than their peers. A young person's self-esteem is improved through interacting with a mentor, and youths who are involved with a mentor are about 46 percent less likely than their friends to start using illegal drugs, and 27 percent less likely to start drinking.

These statistics coupled with the value of mentorship as career paths or college plans are explored are at the tip of what a productive mentorship can provide. Yet, in a world where about 40 percent of a teenager's waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision, mentors are in short supply.

If you have the time and inclination -- and anyone who has ever benefitted from a mentor should be so inclined -- you can help. In Watauga and Avery counties, Western Youth Network of Boone's Mentoring Program matches youths between the ages of 6 and 17 with a positive role model at least 18 years old who can commit to a minimum of two hours per week for a month. Those are the bare bones of the program. Where it goes from there is up to the youth and the mentor -- after all, look where mentorship has taken you in your life.