By Stephanie Lim, Mentoring & Volunteer Programs Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
As we approach the end of National Mentoring Month, I would like to first and foremost thank all of our Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) mentors. There would be no Mentoring Program without their commitment to their mentees, and I am so humbled to be a part of their support system. Special thanks goes out to Ha & Christina, Brian & Ali, and Kelvin & Fucheng for sharing their stories for January’s posts!
Last month, WHUT Howard University Television stopped by our annual AALEAD Mentoring Holiday Fair to film footage for an interstitial to raise awareness of the need for mentors in the DC Metro area. We were so proud to have received the opportunity to be highlighted in this way, especially since we serve a population that typically goes under the radar. By and large, Asian Pacific Americans are not thought to warrant the type of support we offer in our mentoring program. The model minority myth and racist ideology work together to falsely convince others that Asian Pacific Americans do not (and should not) struggle. This dangerous belief leads to why Asian Pacific American youth oftentimes slip through the cracks and experience unmanageable levels of stress, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. With these pressures, the process of identity development becomes more complex. AALEAD creates a safe space for youth to understand their educational options, explore their identities and the identities of others, and develop the leadership skills they need to succeed.
When I visit our after school programs to talk to potential mentees, I ask them to tell me what they think mentoring is and what it can provide for them. A middle schooler recently shared that he wanted a mentor who he could relate to and vice versa. His parents have high expectations of him and want him to have the educational opportunities they did not have, so he especially wanted a mentor who could provide additional guidance.
Mentors are a positive adult presence in the lives of youth and serve as “big brothers and sisters” who mentees can talk to. Mentors also provide encouragement and help their mentees build confidence. The work of building a mentoring relationship and maintaining that relationship greatly benefits youth. Mentors do not fill the role of a parent, a peer, or a social worker, but instead, act as additional sources of support that aid mentees in their development. The Mentoring Report, which focuses on the perspectives of young people, found that:
“Young people with longer mentoring relationships report better outcomes than youth with shorter mentoring relationships in areas such as higher educational aspirations (86 percent of young adults in relationships of more than a year versus 77 percent of those in relationships of a year or less always planned to enroll in and graduate from college), sports participation (77 percent versus 70 percent), leadership positions (61 percent versus 50 percent), and regular volunteering (61 percent versus 53 percent)” (3).
This research speaks to AALEAD’s three outcome areas: Educational Empowerment, Identity Development, and Leadership. Mentors are asked to work toward these goals every month just as they commit to communicating with their mentees for at least 6 hours each month for a minimum of one year. The Mentoring & Volunteer Programs team provides continuous support to our mentors and mentees by connecting them with resources that strengthen their bonds and helping them work towards their outcome-related goals.
Later this week, I will be attending a National Mentoring Month celebration at Room & Board where we will be honoring our mentors for volunteering their time to support the DC Metro area’s young people. In February, I will be participating in Fox 5 DC’s #MentoringMonday phone-a-thon, an annual mentor recruitment effort, for the first time. It is an exciting time to be part of the Mentoring & Volunteer Programs team.
Thank you for joining us in celebrating National Mentoring Month! I hope these posts have given you more insight into the work that the Mentoring & Volunteer Programs team does, why we celebrate National Mentoring Month, and why it is important for us to continue doing this work. The impact that our mentors make on the lives of AALEAD youth is immeasurable, and we celebrate them and their efforts this National Mentoring Month and beyond.
For more information on how to get involved with AALEAD as a mentor, check out our mentoring page. Happy National Mentoring Month!