On Campus

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On Campus: Mentoring happens, so make it positive

01/01/2014 5:00 PM

01/01/2014 5:02 PM

This year, I resolve (again) to eat more vegetables, make exercise a welcome part of every day and get organized. All of life would be better without the daily “Now where did I put that?” searches, and feeling just a whisper of sore muscles as I walk confidently forward in my skinny pants.

This year, I also resolve to be a better example, because we never know which young eyes are watching.

A clerk reminded me of that as I scoped out after-Christmas sales. Ringing up my discounted purchases, she asked if we were the Austins she’d known from church events more than a decade ago. We remember her as a happy, helpful youngster who always pitched in, and now she stood, all grown up, remembering those days with a smile.

Today I scoot between assignments, trying to talk to people in a variety of roles without interrupting the flow of whatever they’re doing. Managing pen and notebook, camera snaps and smartphone tweets makes me wish I could summon extra hands.

I see myself as a gracious-as-possible pest. But one day a teen called me in tears because I had visited her high school class but not spoken to her. What I saw as being less disruptive by working quickly, she took as a painful affront.

And there it is. All of us have an impact, whether we register it or not and whether we mean it like that or not.

In the business world, experts track that impact as modeling or mentoring. In theory, every worker has three jobs: today’s duties, training new employees and learning for advancement. In other words: doing, mentoring and being mentored.

At schools, mentors step in where a big brother or helpful cousin might, in a more perfect world, and many times more are needed to fill the void, speakers said at November’s Youth Mentoring Summit.

The summit, organized by Sierra Vista Child and Family Services, took up the practical points of how to start a mentoring program within a business and how to train and support mentor volunteers. Feel-good moments abound, all said, but real kids come with real challenges. Sometimes adults and kids do not mesh. Sometimes schedules get in the way.

“A lot of people have good intentions, but they don’t have mentoring ‘in their heart,’ so to speak,” said longtime mentor John Ervin III.

“It’s about creating security and protection and loving them hard,” said mentor Marvin Jacobo with Stanislaus County Youth for Christ. “You have to be someone who loves them enough to tell it to them straight.”

Balancing that, however, he said the kids he worked with taught him more than he ever taught them.

Brent Dodd, who organizes the volunteer mentor program for E.&J. Gallo Winery, told of an experience his wife had as a teacher. A former student named Sophie wrote her to share a win and thank her.

“You all have your own Sophies,” Dodd said. “Somebody who writes you, years later, to say ‘Look at what I’ve done. Look at what I’ve accomplished because of the time you spent with me.’ ”

So that’s the takeaway. Time you spend touching other lives matters. Maybe the best New Year’s resolution of all would be to make an impact that’s purposeful and positive.

About This Blog

Bee staff writer Nan Austin provides insights into the latest on local schools and education. @NanAustin

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