There is something good going on at a place in South Minneapolis. I saw some of it in action when I addressed a graduation ceremony for a class of Bolder Options 10- to 14-year-olds. They were completing a year’s worth of a unique one-on-one mentoring experience that has resulted in the right things happening in both the youngsters’ and their mentors’ lives.
The widely recognized Twin Cities program involves weekly sessions with a trained volunteer, physical activity, academic tutoring, goal-setting and the development of healthy life skills.
After our dinner, I told the assembled group of kids, mentors and parents that youngsters in Bolder Options were fortunate because only one in five kids seeking a mentor actually finds one.
A few of the keys
I listed some things that mentors would likely, over time, tell their young mentees about how to live their lives:
- To get into and stay in school, do the homework, graduate from high school and avail themselves of all the help available to them along the way.
- To stay off illegal drugs and alcohol and to get help right away if they have temporarily fallen into those bad habits.
- To refrain from having children themselves until they are an adult and both a father and mother would be around to raise the child.
- To not do violent harm in any way to anyone.
- To respect and follow the law.
- To stay active, take care of themselves and have some fun.
- To become a mentor themselves and to recruit some lifetime mentoring friends for all their lives — or at least to age 25!
Most of the young people knew, when I asked, that their parents were the most important teacher in their lives, but that other relatives, ministers, classroom instructors and coaches were also often important “success allies.”
‘She‘s been there for me a lot‘
Each of the kids and their mentors spoke. Quiet young Becky said of her mentor, Katie, “She’s been there for me a lot, helping me to take care of myself.” Mentor Ian’s take on the energetic Justin was, “He is the most independent, outgoing kid I know. … He’s made my life richer.”
Former Gopher and Packer running back Darrell Thompson, a Rochester, Minn., native and now a father of two boys and two girls himself, is the executive director of the $1.3M-a-year organization. Thompson has devoted most of the last two decades to working closely with the selected at-risk youngsters, directing his staff in advocacy, training, technical assistance, volunteer recruitment, fund raising and partnership building.
For years, Bolder Options has quietly done its homework and measured its results, registering dramatically reduced juvenile delinquency and improved school performance that almost always results in high-school graduation. And as the words of this year’s mentees and mentors reinforced, the benefits of one-on-one mentoring go both ways.
Chuck Slocum (Chuck[at]WillistonGroup.Com) is president of the Williston Group, a management consulting firm. An active mentor who was named “National Mentor of the Year“ in 2005, he is a former state GOP chairman and was executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership.