January is National Mentoring Month. Much has been written about the value of mentoring and most of us remember mentors, in our high school or college days, who made a difference in our lives. Mentoring takes many forms. It may have been a teacher, a coach or an employer. Anyone who took a particular interest in us and gave a piece of themselves. We can count those people on one hand and they each rendered a great service and made a big contribution to our personal growth and our future. We will never forget those people and the difference they made in our lives.
Often the greater value of Foundation scholarships is not in the money but in the human support that goes with it. That is not to downplay the importance of money. Without it we have no mission and no scholarships. But it is often the mentoring behind the money that reaches a student emotionally and is remembered long afterward.
The Foundation funds several scholarship programs, which are supported by mentoring. The Johnson Scholars/Take Stock in Children program for example, prepares and mentors students during their high school years, and provides a scholarship to attend college. Once in college, these students are supported by a professionally staffed retention program, which is essentially mentoring.
Pathways to Education is another example of mentoring with the promise of a college scholarship. Pathways provides counselling, tutoring and material support through the high school years. This has more than doubled graduation rates and college access rates. A further example is the Johnson Scholarship for students with disabilities in the State University System of Florida. The State of Florida supports that program by providing a 50% match to scholarship grants. The program is also supported by the disability service offices in each of the 12 state universities. These offices take the applications, run the selection committees, award the scholarships and, most important, give personal support to the scholarship recipients.
Sometimes, the grant of the scholarship itself is in itself is a form of personal support. We have had many students tell us that our scholarship is a show of faith that helped them through difficult moments when doubted their ability to succeed. This show of faith coupled with the human face of mentoring can light the way forward. This has been a recurring theme in the feedback we have received from recipients, who typically say that it helped more than the money .
Mentoring helps to change lives and we salute National Mentoring Month. To mentors of every kind we say, “Keep going”.