Eastern students discussed the importance of mentoring and its presence on campus for National Mentoring Month that takes place annually in January.
Nationaldaycalendar.com designated January as the month to observe mentoring, and said that it can be observed by raising awareness of mentoring or recruiting people to mentor.
The Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership founded the month in 2002.
“This month, focus on how we can all work together to increase the number of mentors to make sure young people in our communities have dependable people to look up to and follow in their footsteps,” the website reads.
Audrey Kim, a graduate student studying counseling, offered a more precise definition of the word “mentor.”
“I’d say a mentor is typically someone with more experience or expertise in a specific field,” Kim said.
Kim works for Freshman Connection, which offers new students insight into life at Eastern by way of upperclassmen who have experienced both academic and social life.
“Freshman Connection aims to help freshman and transfer students feel supported during their transition into EIU,” Kim said. “At the same time, the program provides students an opportunity to take part in a school-wide initiative to build leadership.”
The dedication of Kim’s fellow mentors to their mentees is admirable, she said.
“I was really impressed by how our mentors are willing to invest in their peers, especially during a pandemic,” Kim said. “I also love being able to work with faculty members and peers who believe in the power of mentorship.”
Weekly check-ins with mentees revolve not only around attendance or research purposes, but also the opportunity to make sure that the participants are receiving the valuable support that Freshman Connection advertises.
“Mentors review the weekly curriculum to provide specific resources for their group members, but honestly, we ask them to make sure their mentees feel cared for,” Kim said.
Kim also acknowledged the benefits of mentor-mentee relationships and the conversations that can develop beyond the academic discussions.
“I’ve loved getting to know my (mentee) on a more personal level,” Kim said. “The other week I was talking to a (mentee) about post-graduation plans. She was sharing with me where her plans for teaching, and we talked about where we want to work in the future.”
In a survey that asked mentees what about Freshman Connection students appreciated most outside of their academics, Kim provided the following quotes:
– “It was just about my only socialization every week. It stopped me from being a complete hermit.”
– “I know I’m not the only one struggling.”
– “My mentor. I really like her and she has helped me a lot with academic and non-academic questions alike.”
– “Gives me time to talk about school to people who are in the same boat I am.”
– “I made friends, got to know campus, learned about how others feel and overall it made EIU feel like home.”
“These students are really looking for a friend and our mentors are doing a great job of being that for their mentees,” Kim said.
While offering advice for those wanting a mentor, Kim said that parents, professors and coaches are great options for mentors given the opportunity for establishing trust and respect in those relationships.
“I’d say if someone is wanting a mentor, a good place to start is thinking through people they trust and respect in their lives, whether that be regarding academic, career, personal issues, etc.,” Kim said.
Kim also noted the importance of both participants in the mentoring process learning from each other.
“Labels aren’t what make a mentoring relationship,” Kim said. “Mentoring is all about investing in and learning from one another.”
According to mentoring.org, some supporters of National Mentoring Month are Maya Angelou, the late John McCain and Bill Russell.
Upcoming events for National Mentoring Month are the virtual National Mentoring Summit from Jan. 27 to Jan. 29 and #ThankYourMentor day on Jan. 29.
Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]