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Anyone Can Be A Mentor

This January marked the 15th annual National Mentoring Month, celebrating the positive impact that mentors have on the lives of young people and their communities. A recent report from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership that surveyed youth at risk of not finishing high school found that compared to those youth without a mentor, students with a mentor who believed in them were 55% more likely to enroll in college, 81% more likely to be involved in sports or extracurricular activities, and 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities. Furthermore, nearly nine in ten respondents with a mentor were now interested in becoming mentors themselves!

Here at Communities In Schools of Durham, we want to celebrate our fabulous mentors all year long. Our mentors come to us from all different backgrounds, from experienced educators to members of faith communities to corporate professionals, and are united by their commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of youth. Today we want to highlight one such volunteer, Claire Phillips, who works in marketing for GlaxoSmithKline and still finds time to give back to her community by mentoring one of our CIS kids. Claire volunteers at Southern School of Energy & Sustainability, a large magnet high school in Durham.

CIS of Durham: What made you want to get involved with mentoring? Have you mentored or volunteered with youth in the past?

Claire: I have a passion for working with youth, and specifically with high school students. Mentoring was a great way for me to get involved with this demographic and hopefully build relationships that have a long term positive impact on their lives. This is my first time mentoring, but I have been involved with youth in the past both through church youth groups and as a counselor at a summer camp.

CIS: How did you first get involved with Communities In Schools?

Claire: I was matched with Communities in Schools through the Go:Mentor program (an outreach of Summit Church). I expressed interest in mentoring at the high school level, and Southern High was in urgent need of mentors.

CIS: How long have you been working with your mentee? What kinds of things do you typically work on/discuss with her?

Claire: I have been working with my mentee for 13 months now. We typically discuss life skills, decision making, and what she can do now to help her achieve her long term goals.

CIS: What do you feel you have gotten from the experience? Are there any moments that stand out as particularly meaningful?

Claire: The student I mentor is a young mother, so it has been incredibly rewarding to be able to share my experiences as a mother with her. Mentoring has provided me an opportunity to work on my own goals and experience the positive reaction my mentee has when we achieve goals together. I know that our time together is a bright spot in her week, and that does wonders for my soul.

CIS: What advice would you give to other people who are interested in being a mentor?

Claire: Jump in with both feet and do it. You don't need to have all the answers; you don't need to be good at algebra or science; you don't need a degree in education. These youth have plenty of authority figures in their life - what they need is someone to encourage them, to pay attention to them, to provide them a safe place to be themselves, ask questions, and simply to show love to them. Anyone can do that.

If you feel inspired by Claire’s call to action, please email our volunteer coordinator at for more information about how to get involved. To learn more about mentoring, visit the website of the National Mentoring Partnership at

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