For Maya*, Tamika*, and Shanea*, meeting with their mentor, Cortney, each week is a special treat. The three girls talk about their days, their goals, and their progress and missteps in a cozy corner of the Neal Middle School library.
“I try to get them to ask, Who do I want to become? How do I get there? What are some things I can work on now as a seventh grader to get me there?” says Cortney, a Communities In Schools of Durham volunteer through GO:Mentor. “We work on character development in our casual conversations or something as simple as making bracelets together.”
In the two school years she's worked with Maya, Tamika, and Shanea, Cortney has seen real growth in the girls and improvements in their behavior and academic performance.
“She understands what you're going through,” says Tamika. “If we do something bad, she'll help us accomplish a goal so we can do better.”
When Cortney first started mentoring Tamika, the middle schooler was struggling with doing her homework. It was hurting her grades—and her chance to move on to the next grade level. But weekly meetings with her mentor put Tamika back on track to graduating from middle school next school year.
“Coming in week after week, I'm just hoping what I'm saying is sticking with them,” says Cortney. “It might not make an immediate impact, but I've seen the importance of being consistent and also being a model of what I'm asking of them.”
A young professional, Cortney has felt the impact of having a mentor in her own life. In fact, she had her first mentor in middle school, too.
Students like Maya, Tamika, and Shanae benefit from having mentors like Cortney in many ways: 76 percent of at-risk young adults with mentors are more likely to aspire to enroll in and graduate from a college, compared to 56 percent of at-risk young adults with no mentor relationship, according to the National Mentoring Partnership. And 51 percent of at-risk mentees are more likely to hold leadership roles as young adults, compared to 22 percent of at-risk students without mentors.
“Having someone consistently show up and just care about you as a person is really great for any young person,” says Cortney. “It can teach them trust, respect, goal setting, and so much more.”
In honor of National Mentoring Month, we invite you to consider joining the CIS team as a volunteer mentor and make a powerful impact on the lives of our community's youth.
*Names have been changed to protect students' identity.