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Mentorship Matters. Give, Receive and Give Again

This post originally appeared on the Helios Education Foundation blog.

Although the holiday season has ended and we have turned the page on another year, our opportunity to give goes on. 

January is National Mentoring Month, a time on the calendar to honor the life-long impact that a knowledgeable and committed mentor can have upon a student. 

When an individual decides to become a mentor there is no magic formula for success or, even, a guarantee of accomplishment. There is, however, the pride you feel when your mentee takes on a challenge with conviction; the fulfillment of purpose that confirms your investment of time and energy enabled your mentee to reach beyond what she originally set out to accomplish, and the resulting successes that then fuel her greater purpose. 

Helios Education Foundation is proud to support partners who share this commitment and incorporate mentoring into their student support programs. In Arizona, our partner Be A Leader Foundation, works to increase the number of college-going students in Arizona by providing them with the tools and resources needed to become college bound, focused and prepared through leadership training and mentoring.  Peer mentors are matched with college-bound students to help take the necessary steps to enter and complete postsecondary education.  For example, mentors help students prepare and take the ACT or SAT, complete college applications, identify and apply for scholarships, and complete the FAFSA. 

Take Stock in Children, a Florida-based partner, identifies high potential, low-income middle-school students and engages them in a success program that ultimately leads to a college scholarship. Upon selection, students and their parents or guardians sign contracts agreeing to fulfill specific performance standards. Students are held to high expectations and with the guidance of advocates and their mentors are accountable for their own success in the program. To be awarded their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime- and drug-free, and meet with their mentors once a week.

Having benefited from the guidance and friendship of a mentor, I know first-hand the influence he has had on my life. As I started my career, my mentor not only took time to explain the protocol of a professional work environment, he taught me numerous intangible lessons – lessons that I’ve passed on to others. It’s those character-building lessons that have shaped my professional life, and I am deeply appreciative of them and of him.   

Again, although the holiday season has ended, we can still give. 

If you can, take the time to mentor a high school student, a college student, or a young professional. The impact you will have on that one individual, and the numerous people he will influence in the future, is immeasurable. That’s an accomplishment worth honoring all month long. 

Receive the Helios Education Foundation newsletter to learn more about our work in both Arizona and Florida. Sign up here. 

Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization, cultivating strong community relationships and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida for the Foundation. He brings more than 25 years of public and private professional experience to his leadership role with the Foundation. Prior to his role at Helios, he served as President of Valley of the Sun United Way, where he led a community-wide fundraising effort approaching $50 million.

Evolution of Grant Making

With the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s grant program convenings on this year’s horizon it is instructive to consider how the Foundation’s grant making has evolved since 1991.

Creating Career Pathways at Mount Allison University

Life had thrown him another curve ball! He had always bounced back, had worked through them and make it out the other side. This time it was different. The circumstances seemed to be beyond his control. He was tired and ready to give up. By the time he came to my office, he was not going to write his last exam that would qualify him for graduation. He had studied for five years, had contributed to university athletics, had given of his time to help first-year students. But he was done! This setback was more than he could imagine overcoming. He was ready to throw it all away. He didn’t care anymore and didn’t have the energy to go on.

Two women at a desk looking at a laptop screen

Then came along a professor who believed in him and she had an opportunity to help: a unique internship with an organization where she knew he could shine and be valued. But she needed funding to make it happen. When we dug into every pot of funding we had left, we came up short. The professor persevered; she wasn’t going to give up on him and neither were we.

Our fundraising office had an idea. Find a philanthropist who would be interested in funding an internship for a student with a disability. The philanthropist loved the idea and those few dollars were life-changing. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF) Pathways Program was developed to have three components: pre-orientation programing, pre-graduation programing, and professional development and experiential learning opportunities in between, in the form of internships designated for Meighen Centre students.

Teacher speaking with a student in an office

My student completed his degree requirements and was awarded his bachelor’s degree. He is now onto his second job and doing something he would never have imagined doing three or four years ago. His sights are set on graduate school where he can further his skills. That’s the power of philanthropy and the JSF Pathways Program at Mount Allison University.

Anne Comfort is the Director of Accessibility and Student Wellness at Mount Allison University. She is also the co-chair of the CACUSS (Canadian Association of College and University Student Services) Community of Practice on Inclusion and Accessibility.