My View – Celebrating mentoring

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By a proclamation of our city council on January 8, Alexandria officially joined communities across the country in celebrating the month of January as National Mentoring Month.

A group of 12 unique mentoring programs, comprised of the Alexandria Mentoring Partnership were present to support the proclamation. The Alexandria Mentoring Partnership (AMP) began a year ago and took on the ambitious goals of coordinating mentoring programs in the city, enhancing the existing programs and providing support to the valuable mentors who volunteer to work with the citys youth. 

AMP was started and is staffed by the citys Gang & Youth Violence Prevention coordinator, Mike Mackey, as part of the Gang Task Force strategic plan to provide positive evidenced-based programs and activities for Alexandria youth.  The Mayor has been a consistently strong supporter of this initiative as well.

The city invests a great deal of resources in our young people but none is as cost-effective and meaningful as a persons personal investment of his/her time and life experience in a child. 

Mentoring is the single program that research studies have consistently shown to have the greatest impact on a childs life and in helping to influence a child to make good choices at a time in his/her life when  times may be the most difficult. 

And, we know that it is a profound commitment for any individual when he/she decides to come forward to take on the challenges of a mentor.  This is where the Alexandria Mentoring Partnership comes in to provide the support that the mentor needs in order to be the most effective with the youth.  Mentors are carefully matched up with their protg through a structured event or activity.  The relationship of the mentor and protg is supported by mentor training and quarterly group meetings to discuss experiences with other mentors.
Two programs that the Alexandria Court Service Unit operates are examples of how a mentoring program can be catalysts to maximizing the relationship between the mentors and his/her young protgs.

The Space of Her Own (S.O.H.O) program uses an art-based program provided by the Art League where both the mentor and young girls engage in fun projects together.  The IMentor  program at George Washington Middle School is a photography program that pairs mentors with 6th grade boys to work on a film project . 

During the course of the programs, city human services professionals present valuable life information which provides the mentors with a basis for taking the subject matter to another level in the youths life.    Both programs have been extremely rewarding to both the mentor and the youth but just like all these programs, more mentors are needed.  The Alexandria Mentoring Partnership needs 200 more mentors to meet the immediate needs of our youth.  Minority mentors are especially needed to help these young people. 

On January 29, at TC Williams High School, there will be another recruitment and get-together of mentors and their protgs. The guest speaker is Ketaa Golden, a young man who had many difficulties in his youth and is now a successful real estate agent and businessman.  He will talk about his personal experience and how his mentor influenced his life and helped him get to where he is today. 

It is also an opportunity to hear about all different types of mentoring programs that exist in the city and sign up for the one that feels right for you. 

There is no obligation to join, but if you do, we guarantee that you will not be sorry.

Lillian Brooks, JD, is director of Court Services for the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  She urges those who wish to get involved contact Mike Mackey at [email protected] or 703-838-4144 ext. 242.

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