Leave Your MARK

Statistically, black youth are three times more likely to be victims of child abuse or neglect. Single mothers and their children are twice as likely to live in poverty, as the general population. As a biracial young woman who was raised by a single mother, the odds were seemingly stacked against me.  However, I was incredibly fortunate to have mentors, such as my baton twirling coach, in my life. She worked tirelessly in our relationship to prevent me from becoming another statistic. I realize how lucky I am to have had the opportunities in my life that have enabled me to be successful, and I can attribute my successes to the support I received from my mentors. Given the important role mentors have had in my life, I believe in the significant impact mentorships can have on all youth.

One in three children believe they have nobody to turn to for guidance and support. It is vital that we foster a culture of education and awareness to encourage the public to participate in mentorship programs. Research shows mentees benefit from increased graduation rates, healthier lifestyle choices, enhanced self-esteem, reduction of disruptive behavior, decreased drug use, and diminished violence. Many people are knowledgeable about the benefits of mentoring, but may never take the steps to become a mentor. Through Leave Your MARK, my objective is to educate and encourage adults to become mentors to increase the quantity and quality of mentorships, while enriching the lives of children. 

I am afforded the opportunity to target large audiences in Missouri to motivate entire generations to become mentors. Many people are reluctant to become a mentor from fear of time commitment, feelings of inadequacy, or confusion of what defines a mentor relationship. I overcome these barriers by:

  • educating the public on the creation, role, and importance of being a mentor.

  • providing strategies to enable them to be an effective mentor and helping them locate mentoring opportunities in their own communities.

  • utilizing motivational speaking engagements, distribution of informative pamphlets, and partnerships with local programs to recruit mentors.

  • marketing Leave Your MARK on a variety of social media platforms to engage with my audience, including weekly #MentoringMonday posts in which I share mentoring activities and benefits of mentoring.

  • cultivating partnerships with local, state, and national organizations to establish more comprehensive resources for youth, which will offer a community-based approach to mentorship.

My goal is to make my social impact initiative known to all citizens across Missouri and encourage them to leave their mark and transform a youth's life.

In an effort to leave my mark, I developed my own 501(c) 3 non-profit organization,

Writeous Girls, Inc.  I was inspired to partner with the top-ranked University of Missouri School of Journalism to create an official student organization that delivers a curriculum to empower young women through different forms of media and community.  Mentees build relationships with their mentor that enable them to express themselves through writing, photography,  and/or digital media. Writeous Girls, Inc. recruits female journalism students, professional journalists, and/or community members as lifelong mentors and role models for these young women.  They are welcomed into a diverse community of females who work closely with them to navigate their scholastic and personal goals. Mentees build relationships while developing self-confidence to make empowered decisions in school and life. The University of Missouri is the flagship for Writeous Girls, Inc.  We partner with schools across the state to start additional chapters to motivate young women to find their goals and to increase the quantity and quality of mentors available. Through Writeous Girls, Inc. we are leaving our mark on tomorrow’s America, one young woman at a time

Why Writeous Girls, Inc.?  The Women Media Center's annual examination found that men produced 62.3 percent of news reports, while women produced 37.7 percent of news reports.  The VIDA Count found that eight of the 15 publications studies "failed to publish enough women writers to make up even 40 percent" of their work in 2017, according to Publishing Perspectives.  Women are under represented within the field of writing.  That's where Writeous Girls, Inc. comes into play.  Located in a college town with the best journalism school in the country, Writeous Girls, Inc. was created to show young women in Columbia Public Schools what they can achieve through various forms of media.  Writeous Girls, Inc. wants girls to find their passion in media, whether it be as a career, a tool to enable them to accomplish their academic endeavors, or simply as a form of expression.

It's no secret that growing up as a middle school girl is tough.  Studies have shown that a women's self esteem is at it's lowest when they are in their turbulent teen years.  However, studies have also shown that writing and expressing how they feel about their emotions eases stress.  Writeous Girls, Inc. is ultimately about more than just preparing them for a career in media, it's about cultivating relationships that will help them live enriched lives in the future.

1 in 3 Youth Will Grow Up Without a Mentor

Mentoring has a significant effect on young people that results in positive outcomes.  Mentorships connects them to a network of support and resources that enable them to develop social and economic opportunities and be successful.  Unfortunately, one in three youth will grow up without a mentor. 

Community involvement is a crucial component in closing the mentoring deficit.  Public officials, teachers, counselors, business leaders, or any adult that wants to make a difference, we need all community members to increase the quantity and quality of mentorships for the youth in America.  Officials in the public sector can support initiatives that promote mentoring as part of comprehensive educational policies.  School employees can ensure mentoring is integrated into programs that support underserved students.  Businesses can encourage employees to become mentors by partnering with nonprofit programs and providing incentives for them to mentor during business hours.  It is imperative that all members of a community are educated on the opportunities available to make a difference through mentoring to invest in the future of America.

Mentoring provides young people with someone who genuinely cares about them,  reassures them that they are not facing challenges independently, and most importantly, makes them feel valued.  Research confirms that quality mentorships have powerful, long-lasting effects in a variety of personal, educational, and professional endeavors.  Through mentoring, a young person has an established network of support and resources to allow positive personal development, as well as provides them with opportunities for social and economic growth.  However,  one in every three young person will still grow up without this critical asset.

Young adults who meet with a mentor on a regular basis are:

  • 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip class. (Public/Private Ventures Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)

  • 55% more likely to be in enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.  (The Mentoring Effect, 2014) 

  • 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking alcohol.  (Public/Private Ventures Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)

  • 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)

  • 130% more likely to hold leadership positions

Studies have also shown that the strongest benefit from mentoring, and most consistent across all groups of students, was a reduction of depression symptoms.  Mentorships promote positive social attitudes and relationships and youth are more likely to have a better relationships with their parents and communicate more effectively with them.  (The Mentoring Effect, 2014).

By preparing young people for college and careers, mentoring helps develop the future workplace talent pipeline.  (Mentoring:  At the Crossroads of Education, Business and Community 2015)  Mentees can be prepared for professional careers when their mentors:

  • Help them set career goals and the enable them to take the steps to meet their goals.

  • Use their contacts to help young people network with professionals, find internships, and jobs.

  • Introduce young people to resources and organizations that will assist them in their endeavors.

  • Teach them skills for seeking a job, interviewing for a job, and keeping a job.

Ultimately, mentoring can help a young person in many different ways, and is as varied as the people involved in each mentorship.  Before becoming a mentor, here are a few things to consider about mentoring.  Mentors assume many different identities during the course of mentoring and share some basic qualitites:

  • A desire to be involved in a mentorship with a young person

  • Respect for the youth 

  • Active listening skills

  • Empathy

  • Ability to seek opportunities and solutions

  • Flexibility

There are also many benefits that mentors gain from mentorships.  Mentoring allows for a shared opportunity for learning and growth.  The rewards that mentors gain are as substantial as those for the mentees. Mentoring enables mentors to:

  • Have fun with their mentee

  • Achieve personal growth and learn more about themselves

  • Improve their self-esteem and enable them to make a difference in another person's life

  • Develop an appreciation for other cultures and diversity

  • Become more productive and have a positive attitude 

  • Enhance their relationships with the youth in their own life

Above all, a great mentor is willing to develop a relationships with their mentee, learn new things that are important to the their mentee, and open to be changed by their mentorship.  Every person has the ability to be a mentor and Leave their MARK on a young person's life.

Mentoring Programs

​​Finding a mentoring program a mentor is excited and comfortable with can require some effort, however there is something for everyone.  It is important to be open and flexible to all the different mentoring programs and focus areas that are available.   Below are some mentoring programs in Missouri to consider becoming involved in.  Local communities and organizations also offer a vast number of mentorship opportunities.

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