January Is National Mentoring Month

Has a mentor made a difference in your life? Celebrate that person today, Thank Your Mentor Day, and for the rest of National Mentoring Month. In honor of all the great mentors out there, explores the important role these individuals play and shares how you can become a mentor.

college mentor

Advice, Education and Support

Teachers, tutors, advisers: All of these individuals play an important role in guiding students through their education. But a good mentor can be instrumental to a student's academic - and personal - success.

In 1980, sociologist Morris Zeldritch described mentors as:

  • Advisers: People with career experience who share their knowledge.
  • Supporters: People who offer moral and emotional encouragement.
  • Tutors: People who give specific feedback on one's performance, in academic or other areas.
  • Masters: Employers or experts to whom one is apprenticed.
  • Sponsors: Sources of information and assistance in pursuing opportunities.
  • Models: People who model the type of identity that the mentee would like to develop.

As you can see, a mentor plays an intimate role in his or her mentee's life. Because the mentoring relationship is so personal, a mentor has exceptional insight into the strengths, weaknesses, needs and goals of his or her charge, and can use that understanding to offer insightful guidance.

For example: A young female college student majoring in math may bond with one of her female math professors. If the two develop a mentoring relationship, that professor will help her with more than her math skills - she'll offer empathy and advice on all of the challenges that the student faces throughout her academic career, such as overcoming the barriers faced by women in a male-dominated field.

Of course, mentoring is not limited to students. Many individuals start or carry on these relationships past school and into their professional lives.

youth mentor

Becoming a Mentor

Morris Zeldritch's lofty explanation of mentorship may sound like you need to be an expert to be a mentor. But in fact just about any adult can offer mentorship to the many young children and students out there in need of guidance - all you need is time, compassion and a little life experience.

There is a strong need for mentoring in the education community. According to, youth with mentors are more likely to develop healthy personal relationships, graduate from high school and pursue higher education. They're also less likely to succumb to substance abuse and other risky behaviors.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, considering becoming a mentor at a local school or community center. The National Mentoring Month website offers a list of state-based mentoring organizations with whom you can partner to get started.

Other ways to promote mentoring in your community include:

  • Donate to a mentoring organization
  • Post a tribute to someone who mentored you or someone you know on your blog, Facebook or Twitter
  • Make a video about mentorship and post it to YouTube or Vimeo
  • Encourage your friends and family to consider becoming mentors
  • Help a young person you know find a mentor
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