January is National Mentoring Month, a time to celebrate the positive impact mentorship can have on the lives of kids and teens. Mentors serve as a positive influence and play a powerful role in helping youth navigate challenges and achieve their goals. With more than 400,000 trained staff and volunteers, Boys & Girls Clubs fill a critical need by providing caring guidance and safe spaces to millions of kids across America to help them grow into confident and capable adults.
Kienne H., 18, a freshman at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) and member at the Freetown Village Boys & Girls Club, understands the power of mentorship. She started attending her Club at age six and credits Club staff for helping her blossom from a shy and reserved girl, into a confident young adult. Her Club mentors encouraged her to break out from her comfort zone by participating in programs that promote leadership. At age 16, Kienne wanted to mentor others, and became a Junior Staff member taking on the responsibility of helping run the Club’s STEM program, including facilitating the newly-redesigned MyFuture, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s online platform that provides high-quality programming and digital resources youth need to succeed. Additionally, Kienne participates in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Mentorship Program, building one-on-one relationships with Club members.
In partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, Boys & Girls Clubs created MyFuture, which engages kids and teens in educational fun, learning and play. As the nation continues to navigate the pandemic, the platform is more critical than ever before, helping kids stay engaged and academically on track. As an experienced MyFuture user and facilitator, Kienne enjoys helping younger members navigate the platform and complete activities and games from a robust curriculum, including online safety, digital literacy and leadership development. “Programming that allows for the most creative thinking tends to stick better, in my opinion,” Kienne says.
Kienne’s role in the OJJDP Mentoring Program allows her to help younger Club members on a personal level. Through this program, Club Directors choose members that they think would benefit from having a mentor and match them with a staff member. Kienne spends at least one hour per week catching up, playing games, helping her mentees with homework and spending one-on-one time together. Along with her Club Director, Kienne tracks their progress to see the direct impacts of mentorship.
While 2020 has posed several challenges due to the temporary closure of her Club due to COVID-19, Kienne still describes her experience on Junior Staff and as a mentor as incredibly rewarding – “I enjoyed coming to the Club because it was a safe space for me, and staff always encouraged me to do my best. Being on Junior Staff and being a mentor for other kids has opened my eyes to my own experiences at the Club, and I just want to instill onto others, the positive lessons I was taught.”
With mentorship being an important aspect of her life, it’s no surprise that Kienne wants to pursue a career in a field helping others in need – she is pursuing a nursing degree at Anne Arundel Community College. “I love math and I love helping people. I want to be a postpartum nurse – I’m big on family and have 15 little cousins on my dad’s side alone!”
Boys & Girls Clubs exist to serve kids in need. Through positive youth mentorship, Club staff is there to listen, advise and care, helping kids realize their full potential, even throughout the most challenging circumstances. “Through mentoring, I feel as though I can alleviate some stress from the younger kids, especially for those who are unable to sort through their feelings,” Kienne says. “I can help provide that safe place for them to work through their feelings, and help create a path of success for them.”
In celebration of National Mentoring Month, please consider becoming a mentor at your local Club, or donate to Boys & Girls Clubs of America to do whatever it takes to help in-need youth.