By Pat Roe, Senior Program Director, USA Funds
I have been tremendously blessed, personally and professionally, to be involved in many mentoring relationships. Through these experiences I’ve come to understand the power of mentoring to help students, and others, develop personally, socially and professionally.
Mentoring for me began with my mother, who was a dynamic woman. She believed strongly in education as the key to opportunity in a person’s life. Although she didn’t have the advantage of going to college, she was a lover of books, of all kinds and on all topics. She taught me to first love reading and then explore the world through books, so I literally used to “visit” many places through reading. She consistently told me I could do anything I set out to do first by believing in God, loving myself, and not letting any obstacle stand in my way.
I’ve had many other mentors in my life, including siblings, neighbors, bosses, men and women in leadership roles, clergy, as well as individuals in the news who are contributing positively to our community. By observing these mentors, I have learned how to handle a variety of situations, how to identify new opportunities, and how to build a personal brand. I think the most pressing issue for most individuals is determining their passion and developing a plan that is both inspirational and achievable.
I also have served as a mentor to others. My strategy for building lifelong trusting relationships with mentees includes the following components:
- Being open to communication and making time for conversation.
- Understanding what the goal is and also the perceived challenges to reaching the goal.
- Considering the inspiration for this goal and whether there is a true passion for it.
- Establishing mutual respect, honesty, humility and trust in one another.
- Being open to a free exchange of knowledge, learning and discussion around behavior modification.
- Role modeling.
- Execution of the plan.
In my work as a senior program director for National Engagement and Philanthropy at USA Funds®, I have encountered several mentoring programs that contribute to student success in high school and college and in preparation for the world of work. A brief, “The Role of Mentoring in College Access and Success”, prepared by the Institute for Higher Education Policy for the Pathways to College Network and National College Access Network summarizes some of the research findings on the benefits of mentoring for student success, including the following items:
- Mentored undergraduates demonstrated increased academic achievement, and mentored first-year students were significantly more likely to return to college for a second year.
- Students with mentors had higher GPAs and were more likely to stay in college compared with academically similar students without mentors.
- Mentoring helped both undergraduates and graduate students develop skills and behaviors necessary to succeed professionally.
To extend my involvement in mentoring others, I recently joined the Mentoring Women’s Network, a nonprofit organization that is building a community of women who are developing one another professionally through mentoring relationships. I look forward to working with this organization to extend their mentoring support to help college students persist and graduate, with leadership and other critical skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.