Sometimes I wonder about what I will write about when my last two children leave home. I am not ready for it. I think that I have taught them well enough. I am trying not to look at my experiences as a student and compare them to my own children. My educational experience was less than stellar but a trip back to New York put me in the proper perspective.
I realized that ultimately, I could have done better in high school. I look back in retrospect and realize that with a little more encouragement from adults or mentors, I probably would have done better. It was not that I was not smart, it was that I needed more guidance. I needed an adult in my life other than my parents. I wonder why it took me so long to figure that out but I did and guess that is all that really matters. I had not been back home in almost ten years. I had a good time and it was a learning experience all over again.
Sometimes you need to look at the things that you stay away from as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. I will make sure that I will visit sooner next time.
My experience as a young person is why I try and do a lot for the community and my own children. I must give and I do believe in volunteerism. Students need to know that there are adults who have been through the same things, I believe in mentorship as well. As I stated above, if I thought that another adult was there for me, possibly things would have gone a lot better. I was constantly trying to figure out situations on my own and as a young person that is sometimes very difficult. I always tell young people that adults know more than you do. Their experiences can help you choose who you want to be and who you do not want to emulate. Your experience with students can also open your eyes to new opportunities for growth within.
The Lansing Sunrise DeWitt Rotary is mentoring H.O.P.E. Scholarship students this year. I eagerly signed up to participate. Our Rotary Club is small so some of our members visited other Rotary Clubs in the area to sign members up to mentor. There was also a call for those who are not in Rotary to sign up. There are more students than we have professional mentors. The time that will be spent with the student is two hours every two weeks. I can handle that. I believe that most of us can. We need to make time for students. Even if the student is doing well in school that does not mean that their home life is stellar. Exposure is sometimes the factor that helps a student in life as they navigate through it. We as mentors are traditionally not tutors or replacements for parents, we should provide extra support and encouragement.
Mentors should be key role models and provide the student with a positive and rewarding experience and it should be the same for you. If you are planning on volunteering, you should note that you will be asked to get a background check. Most schools have standards of conduct in place as well. Make sure you find out what the school district’s expectations are. Confidentiality is also important. You will have access to some of the most important information about a student’s personal life.
If you cannot volunteer by taking a student a few hours a week, help with after school activities or take time to help in the office. Your presence is important. Do not ever forget that. You can make a difference.
This column was printed in the October 4, 2015 - October 17, 2015 edition.