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National Mentoring Month is celebrated through inspiring programs

Members of Strong Women, Strong Girls, one of Carnegie Mellon’s many mentoring groups. (credit: Devin Beahm/) Members of Strong Women, Strong Girls, one of Carnegie Mellon’s many mentoring groups. (credit: Devin Beahm/)

This January marks the tenth anniversary of National Mentoring Month, “a time each year when our nation spotlights the importance of mentors and the need for every child to have a caring adult in his or her life,” according to www.nationalmentoringmonth.org. Mentors can be a substantial influence in a child or young adult’s life and impact them in unforeseeable ways. What would Henry David Thoreau have been without his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson? Or, perish the thought, Harry Potter without the guidance of Professor Dumbledore?

Students are constantly being mentored by professors and teachers who continually encourage them to think deeply, act judiciously, and strive confidently toward their goals. By becoming mentors, they can switch these roles and give someone else the gift of guidance and the encouragement to go after their dreams and goals. At Carnegie Mellon, students have the opportunity to be mentored or become mentors through several different programs offered on campus.

Those who wish to find a mentor can apply for the Heinz mentor program, where students are matched with alumni based on personal priorities and career goals. Another mentoring program, through the Career and Professional Development Center, trains students to assist their peers with career choices through outreach activities and events.

One mentoring program that is particularly hands-on is Strong Women, Strong Girls, a group-based mentoring program between college-aged women and at-risk girls in grades three through five. Katherine Yang, a member of this mentoring team, said, “the goal of Strong Women, Strong Girls is to pass on the lessons learned from strong women throughout history to encourage girls and young women to become strong women.” The mentoring group meets once a week for about 90 minutes to learn about and discuss women who are making a positive impact in today’s world.

Becoming involved in mentorship is surprisingly easy; in fact, students do not even need to join one of the aforementioned groups to become a mentor. Carnegie Mellon offers the class “Literacy: Educational Theory and Community Practice,” that pairs college students and urban high school students from the Fox Chapel area together in a writing mentorship. The goal is to help the high school students learn “new strategies for writing, planning and decision making” that will aid them in transforming themselves and their community.

Professor Linda Flower teaches the class and, through her extensive involvement in Pittsburgh’s Community Literacy Center, strives to turn literate action into social change. Flower’s class is yet another way to become involved and joining is as simple as clicking the “add” button on the Online Registration website.

Becoming a mentor is a big responsibility, but many students find the rewards are plentiful. Having a lasting positive impact on a person’s life is a priceless gift that will continually repay itself. All one has to do is give up a few hours a week and devote that time to enriching someone else’s life.

“Mentoring is a way for us to ‘pay it forward.’ Most of us are where we are today because of people who’ve helped us along the way; mentoring is important because it allows us to help people see the potential they may not see in themselves,” Yang said. There are many resources available to aid students in learning how to be good mentors and become involved in “paying it forward” through the mentorship of kids, the world-changers of tomorrow.

For more information on the Heinz mentorship program, visit www.heinz.cmu.edu/jobs-and-internships/mentor-program/index.aspx.

For the Career and Professional Development Center’s program, see www.studentaffairs.cmu.edu/career/about-us/career-peer-mentors.

To get involved with Strong Women, Strong Girls, contact them at swsgcmu@gmail.com.