Uniting Generations: Mentoring in Nonprofits

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    Mentoring in Nonprofits, Grandmas, and Grandpas: Let’s Unite

    I very seldom write an article that spans my Grandma’s Chronicles and professional -Nonprofit Blogs. But once in a while inspiration hits and out comes a blog post such as this one. It is being published at The Grandma Chronicles and Nonprofit Capacity Building. The question is: “Should you and nonprofits get involved with mentoring?” It actually can be a lot of work to get started and sustained and takes a very strong leader who inspires, has good organization, and is willing to work hard on the project for it to work. Sounds a bit discouraging, doesn’t it? But is it worth it? The answer is a resounding yes!

    Two of my sisters that I spent most of the day with on our recent trip to Broadway.  Here they are on the PATH on our way into NYC
    Two of my sisters that I spent most of the day with on our recent trip to Broadway. Here they are on the PATH on our way into NYC
    First, the source of inspiration for this post. I am involved with the mentoring program at my high school, St. Vincent Academy in Newark, NJ. As a participant, it is very easy and I just get to enjoy myself. But the leader of this program does an incredible amount of research, planning, budgeting, encouraging mentors, arranging group tours, and making it happen. Twice a year, mentors – alumnae and members of the Advisory Board – go on trips with an equal number of girls who are currently high school students at St. Vincent’s. The alumnae usually range from those who are out of high school for 10 years to over 50 years.
    Once a year we go to a Broadway show with dinner and on another day – one that is not a school day – we go on a full-day outing that our leader, Mary Gannon, has arranged. We have gone to Yankee Stadium, the Botanical Gardens, museums, a Coast Guard station complete with touring two Coast Guard boats, and more. Mary always includes some browsing/shopping times which girls of all ages love and a morning and afternoon activity. Sometimes there’s a bonus like bowling or riding a merry-go-round.
    We often get looks because we seem like an unusual group. There appears to be an almost equal number of older white women and mostly minority young women. We don’t look like a standard school trip because we are just all socializing together rather than being adult chaperones and students. There are also too many adults to just be chaperoned. Sometimes someone will look for a few moments and then ask – “What kind of a group are you anyway?” We talk about careers, our families, raising families, and having careers or being active with volunteering. We also get questions about what the prom was like back then and learn about what it is like now. Some of our mentors were star basketball players in their day and that always makes for an interesting conversation. I always like to see the imagining going on when a few girls learn that the woman who graduated over 50 years ago and now volunteers as a handbell instructor was a star basketball player. She is tall it is not hard for me to see it. But they look at her as if to say “Really?” and then do say “Really?” If you need it, it’s a good opportunity to get a little smartphone tutoring. Did we have some of the older teachers? Some of us were students with one of their teachers. It is always the best day ever.
    Mentoring doesn’t have to be based on tutoring, leadership development, careers, or some other focused goal. I do and like that kind of mentoring too. But this bonding with girls that I have so much in common with and yet have differences with has something so special about it. I can’t find a few words to capture it. But we cross generations, cultures, and economics and explore our common experiences. They are interested in our past and we are interested in their future. Colleges and careers enter into easy conversation – not formal counseling.
    I am looking forward to getting involved with a more formal mentoring program at St. Vincent’s but this will always be one of my favorite things to do.
    So….Grandparents and nonprofits. I urge you to get involved in mentoring. It doesn’t have to be a formal focused program. It is not just rewarding – it is fun and will lead to new friendships that you never imagined. If you don’t know of a local program think about starting one at a local nonprofit. I can’t just say, “Oh, it’s easy.” But I can say, “It’s well worth it.”
    If you are interested in starting a mentoring program there are excellent resources available. Probably the best known is the National Mentoring Partnership – found online at http://www.mentoring.org/. They have remarkable resources and a huge network available to help you find a program near you or to start and sustain a program. Check it out.
    My grandson, Zach, is three years old. Those of you who read this blog know that he is the joy of my life. I am also enjoying my time spent with teenagers. It is very different being in a mentoring role than in an authority role. Even if you are busy, I highly recommend checking out mentoring opportunities. And please do share your mentoring activities with us by leaving your comments.