HOW TO START A YOUTH MENTORING PROGRAM IN YOUR SCHOOL

Submitted by Michael Janz (@michaeljanz), Alberta Mentoring Partnership

This week, in recognition of #MentoringMonth, we’re pleased to feature a guest post from Michael Janz, partnership engagement coordinator with the Alberta Mentoring Partnership.

DID YOU KNOW THAT 80 PER CENT OF ALBERTANS AGES 18-24 WISH THEY’D HAD A MENTOR WHEN THEY WERE YOUNGER?

January 25th is #ThankYourMentor Day. What better way to say “Thank YOU” to the people who mentored you, than by becoming a mentor or starting a mentoring program yourself?

The Alberta Mentoring Partnership is your mentoring resource to start a new or improve your existing mentoring program, and find new mentoring opportunities in your community.

Mentoring a young person is a great way to give back to the community and support young Albertans’ healthy development. The Alberta Mentoring Partnership is dedicated to the success of mentoring organizations, schools and programs across the province. We advance mentoring by offering tools and resources to help mentoring organizations start a mentoring program, improve delivery, and recruit and train mentors.

Healthy kids don’t simply develop on their own. Instead children’s physical and mental health depend on the interaction of genes and environment, cognitive development, and their experiences with adults. To develop healthy brains capable of continued growth and to reach their full potential as citizens, children need sustained, positive, and enriching experiences with supportive adults. Early childhood and adolescence are periods of heightened brain plasticity, when young brains are growing quickly and are readily shaped by experiences. In children’s earliest years, neural connections are constantly being formed that build the foundation upon which the rest of the brain develops. Adult caregivers can build these connections and help young minds grow by taking part in back and forth interactions with children that are similar to a tennis match. The match starts when a child “serves” with a facial expression, movement, or verbalization. It is up to adults to return the serve by responding. This back and forth, or “serve and return” interaction completes a learning process that allows connections in the brain to get stronger and pave the way for developing cognitive abilities in the future. The need for interaction continues as children age and reach adolescence. Along the way, new capabilities and skills are added to the foundation built through a child’s earliest experiences.

The Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP) recognizes the importance of the positive interactions with adults that mentoring provides. Because early experiences determine how children fare later in life, starting the process of building a healthy brain through regular, enriching interaction with adults is important. When adults listen to children’s perspectives and create a sense of belonging, they provide a stable buffer against pressures that can negatively affect children’s development. Because healthy development, particularly brain development, continues through the teenage years, young people of all ages can benefit from having an adult mentor’s responsive, stable, and caring presence in their lives.

Ensuring the well-being and healthy development of our youngest citizens is the responsibility of all Albertans; we all depend on each other to build a thriving society. Mentoring a young person is a great way to do your part.

By building strong, positive relationships with adults, mentoring can help children and youth build confidence, do well in school, and overcome challenges more readily. Mentors also benefit from the experience, developing communication, time management, and people skills. Find a mentoring opportunity and help a child today!

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