A student in a mentoring program greets her mentor. More districts, including Gwinnett, are seeing the benefit of mentors for their students.
Photo: AJC File
Photo: AJC File

Change a life. Open a window. Become a mentor.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is looking for mentors. Could you be one? 

Nury Crawford is a Gwinnett County Public Schools director of academic support. She leads the Hispanic Priority in the Community-Based Mentoring Program.
Crawford told me she was seeking mentors, so I asked her to write about the mentoring program so people can figure out if they might want to participate. 
Here is her piece.
By Nury Castillo Crawford
Way back when I was a little kid, I had lots of adults around me. The kind that looked out, told on me, and even the ones who reprimanded me when I needed some tough love and guidance. Some of them were family members like my aunts and some were friends of the family, like my mom’s best friend.
Nowadays with the hassle of everyday life, it seems like there’s a little less of that and an apparent need for the “village” to be present. The big question is how can we ensure that our kids, our lives’ biggest investment, have the self-esteem and support they need to grow to be successful, contributing citizens in our community?
The simple answer is mentoring.
The notion of mentoring is not new at all, it’s actually ancient. Many of us learned of Athena, a mentor who ultimately became the teacher and guardian to Odysseus’ son Telemachus. The original mentor was described by Homer as the “wise and trusted counselor.” 
A mentor can be any responsible adult willing to invest their time by spending it with a student who needs some additional attention. Sometimes, the child needs attention because of academics. Other times, it may be because of behavior. Mentors can even encourage kids to attend and stay with school. In this video, Gwinnett Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks explains how much mentors have helped the county’s middle school students.  

Here is my favorite summation of mentoring from City University of New York:

An effective mentoring relationship is characterized by mutual respect, trust, understanding and empathy. Good mentors are able to share life experiences and wisdom, as well as technical expertise. They are good listeners, good observers and good problem-solvers who set aside uninterrupted time for their students. They are approachable and available, and open to a two-way dialogue. They try to know, accept, respect and champion the goals and interests of the student. They stay in touch with their students, and their students stay in touch with them, building a sustained relationship over time.

They help students identify the questions they need to be asking; they promote the student’s confidence, self-advocacy and independent thinking. They offer their students constructive criticism as well as praise. They help their students build networks and they look out for opportunities for them. Mentors establish an environment in which the student’s accomplishments are limited only by the extent of his or her talent.

Gwinnett County Public Schools has one of the few mentoring programs embedded within a school district. We recruit mentors, both men and women, year-round. We need adults whose strengths lie in being a coach, motivator, challenger, protector, supporter, listener and advocate. 
You may end up with more than just a mentee — but a new member of your family. The life you might end up impacting and enriching could be your own.
Are you interested in being a mentor for the Community-Based Mentoring Program? Contact us for additional information 770-682-8086.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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