Help a boy or girl by becoming a mentor


School-aged children can use someone to talk to. Someone they can share their thoughts, goals and fears with who genuinely cares and wants what’s best for them.

Many children on Long Island are fortunate enough to have mentors, benefiting from a mentoring program in which they form unique bonds with qualified adults. But for many others, healthy mentoring opportunities don’t exist. Granted, most children have parents, siblings, teachers or coaches to whom they can speak freely, but the relationship between a mentor and mentee is unique, and can be vital in a child’s life.

We need more programs — whether in schools or religious, community or civic organizations — where kids can find the guidance of mature and caring adults.

Since 2002, January has been designated National Mentoring Month, in the interest of focusing national attention on the need for mentors, and, according to the National Mentoring Partnership, “how each of us — individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits — can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes for our young people.”

Locally, the Mentoring Partnership of Long Island works with close to 200 mentoring programs, mostly in schools. MPLI staff members train those who are interested in launching and running programs as well as adults who would like to become mentors.

In the Baldwin School District, Pat Banhazl, the high school’s school-to-career coordinator, started a mentoring program in 2001, with help from MPLI. That first year, there were five teachers and five students. Now the program boasts more than 100 educators and 150 students. Banhazl has expanded it to the middle school and three district elementary schools. Educators and adults from the community form lifelong bonds with their young charges, she said, adding that she still keeps in touch with a student whom she mentored in 2004.

“Mentees view their mentors as a role model [and] friend, and receive the encouragement to make sure that their future plans are possible,” says Helen Kanellopoulos, who runs the program with Banhazl. “A mentor is a guiding light and an advocate.”

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