The Cyclical Nature of Mentorship

Last Friday morning, local non-profit Durham Cares sought out to answer this question through their crowd-sourced “TweetUp.” Organizations across the city are on a similar mission to promote more positive role models. Civic leaders like The Durham YMCA, Go Mentor, and Girls On The Run, gathered on the interwebs to brainstorm paths for better mentorship and more mentors. “Everyone has the ability to mentor, whether you think so or not!” tweeted Durham Cares.

Success is a challenging journey to navigate on your own. Many of the most accomplished professionals in history were under the tutelage of other high achievers during their lifetime. Jordan had Smith, Plato had Socrates, Bieber had Usher… and the cycle continues. Organizations like Go Mentor make it their mission to connect the right people with the right opportunities.

There are common threads running deeply through any successful role model, though quantifying those traits can be difficult due to each unique circumstance. So how do we teach people to become a mentor? Having courage, honesty, and an open heart are qualities reiterated frequently during the tweet-up conversation. Building on those characteristics allows relationships between teacher and student to grow naturally over time. The importance of mentorship cannot be understated because it strengthens the ties of a generations and neighborhoods, furthering the bonds of community. This holds true because typically the relationship benefits, not only the young child, but the mentor as well.

Schools provide a foundation, but often it is the environment existent outside of the classroom that dictates a child’s success. My childhood benefited tremendously from growing up in Watts-Hillandale, a nourishing neighborhood, a true community, full of parents, older siblings, and neighbors willing to leave their doors open for anyone in need of a little extra encouragement. Role models came in the form of teachers, bosses, coaches/city councilmen, and as an adult, even roommates.

Whether you think you are a mentor or not, there is always an opportunity to make a positive impact on a child’s life. The youth of tomorrow need our help navigating the complex emotional labyrinth that is adolescence.

Find ways to get involved in your community.

Even the smallest stone throw has a ripple effect.

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Columnist Justin Laidlaw is a renaissance man. His interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture, to the world beyond. The co-host of Clarion Content’s podcast, he is fast becoming a veteran columnist. He is a fashion model, a tech sceptic, a business manager and more.

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