We launched the female class for the Mentorship Academy this past week. Fifteen young women, mostly high school seniors, from districts across the region’s urban and rural zip codes. The day’s discussions left me with three significant takeaways; including the vital role of mentors, a role if you’re reading this you might be able to help serve.
These high schoolers have drive and ambition. Much like their Academy male peers, when you observe and listen to their interactions, you hear leaders, insight, creativity, individuality, and the desire for independence. It’s truly impressive when you consider these are 17 and 18 year-olds, placed in a group where they enter not knowing those around them, and sit in a new environment not knowing for certain what comes next. No doubt, the raw potential is there.
Second, these young women and men from our region’s underserved communities are keenly focused on figuring out how to progress up the economic ladder to bigger and better things. They see one of two paths: ‘making it’ ala professional sports, music, etc. or being caught in the viscous box that too many of our urban and rural neighbors are trapped in. To most of these young adults, there is an assumption that a traditional path to the middle class is not an option: either make it big or be resigned to not moving forward.
Changing this perception of these high potential individuals is the core purpose and justification for the Mentorship Academy.
Once they see what career paths are open following high school, and what those careers provide for standard of living, the light bulbs will surely go off. Couple that realization with the untapped potential of each student, and great things will begin to occur—for the person and the region.
Third, it is becoming increasingly clear that the success of this effort will hinge on what will link the raw potential/talent of the individual student to the structured program of the Mentorship Academy: the mentor.
The reality is that despite raw potential and a great program design, there are dozens of constant and ominous distractions looking to pull these young adults off the proven path. We convene once every few weeks for a day and achieve great things, but every minute of every other day is filled with pitfalls and perils that are real and entrenched.
The mentor is the key to assuring the student stays on course with the Mentorship Academy and avoids the distractions. And since every young adult is different, that means every mentor-student relationship is going to be different.
We are blessed to have a core team of mentors that know this and are all-in when it comes to focusing on keeping the participants on the critical path. The mentors are about as diverse as one can imagine: sports coaches, corporate professionals, moms and dads, educators, rural residents, urban residents, etc. All of them sharing one thing in common: experiencing a similar journey in their lives to that of the students.
We know the students of the Mentorship Academy’s inaugural class are stacked with potential. We are convinced the program is wired with experiences and content that will yield exciting career and life paths exiting high school. We are sober in recognizing real life out there is going to challenge our campaign. And we are certain the mentors are going to be the answer to that challenge.
If you hail from urban or rural roots and have a passion for mentoring young adults looking to embark on a life career in western Pennsylvania outside of college, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.