Mentoring: Crutch or Catapult

When you think of youth mentoring what comes to mind?  Is mentoring an opportunity for a child to indulge in playing, eating, fishing, watching sports? Or is it an opportunity for growth and steps towards successful adulthood. I like to ask, “Is it giving a child a crutch, or offering a child a catapult?”

Ultimately, Bridges Kinship Mentoring hopes beyond all hope mentoring is an action that assists children and youth into becoming independent, successful, “contributing to society” adults.  As a supporter of the  Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success we see the role mentoring plays in the development of a child.

 (Click image to enlarge) 

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So every student should have access to 7 areas (as seen in the image to the right)...and mentoring, in its perfect state, covers 5 of the 7 components.  It doesn't necessarily mean that every mentor covers every area. If we remind ourselves what the definition of mentor is we will see - A positive individual who shares time and interests with a young person to offer guidance and opportunities to advance the child successfully. Mentoring gives access through opening doors to new experiences, building self-esteem and the benefits of a caring individual. 

Should mentoring and the friendships developed be fun? Well of course!  

Imagine introducing a 9 year old to the art of fly fishing. What are the skills needed?  Patience, acute awareness of the flying insects, the persistence to become adequate at casting and to reach, as author Norman McLean wrote in A River Runs Through It, “…an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o'clock." It takes half the summer on dry land for the kid to keep the line and fly out of the tree but you manage to keep your patience with the child and muster up enough energy to keep arms in a steady rhythm hour after hour.  Now imagine the first time wading into a stream and encouraging your mentee to cast into a specified area.  A few failed attempts and then…ta da! A tug, a fight and there you have it; the first fish caught on a woolly bugger fly.  There are smiles, pictures, and a woot woot.

What has happened here?  Is this the crutch that props a child? Indulges a child? No. This is the catapult that has projected this child into a new understanding of nature, water, fish, patience, rhythm and reward.  This child has been shot out of the current existence into a new world with new skills made by this experience. On the Student Success Pathway, this catapult covers:

                The Arts & Physical Activity (Fly fishing IS an art)

                High quality out of school time (Enough said)

                Meaningful connections to the community. (Nature, caring adult outside of family)

                Relationship that supports mental, emotional, physical & spiritual well being. (Take your pick...I would go with the spiritual.)

                Guidance and Direction of a caring adult (That's you!) 

 As a mentor, you can imagine the possibilities a young person can experience.  Keep doing what you do because the power of mentoring is the power of the catapult.


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This blog entry is based on the article found at