By Lara Kingstone, Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator
This summer at Silver Lining Mentoring, there’s so much that we have going on. We have talented new staff members joining our team, we have exciting new projects we’re piloting, and we have cohorts of young people graduating from their workshops and entering our community-based mentoring program.
But something else we have is a waiting list. This is a list of young people who have signed up to participate in Silver Lining, but for whom we haven’t been able to find the right mentor.
We all know that anyone’s journey of growing up is challenging. Being young often means facing change, and the experience can feel overwhelming for even the luckiest people. But, growing up may be even more difficult for one of our most underserved populations: young people in foster care.
For many young people in foster care, movement and uncertainty are constant, rather than an exception: they’re often moving to and away from homes, and caretakers, and schools, and friends, and community. This constant change can be relentless, and it removes natural opportunities to build long-lasting, healthy, and trusting relationships with adults. As such, the adults in youths’ lives may be there in a paid capacity, like a teacher or case worker. These adults play large and important roles in their lives, but young people understand the difference between a trusted paid caretaker and a trusted friend, or mentor. That’s one reason why having an adult in your corner who isn’t paid to be there can be so powerful to a young person growing up in foster care. Its why, at Silver Lining Mentoring, we’re committed to recruiting, training and supporting the best volunteer mentors.
Having a committed mentor by your side—someone who reminds you of your worth—can make challenges feel more surmountable and can provide the support young people need to feel confident about reaching out to new people and trying new things. Mentors also play the essential role of historian, able to be there for their mentees across time, remembering how far young people have come and celebrating all they have achieved.
When we’re working to match young people with trained mentors, they often request personality traits or interests in common. But we also often see young people requesting mentors who identify the same way they do, along racial, ethnic, gender or sexuality lines. The power of having a mentor who looks like you, or shares a common life experience, is immeasurable.
This summer, we have a waiting list. And its why, this summer, we’re pushing ourselves to connect with 100 people in 100 days, in a targeted effort to serve more youth and make more quality mentoring matches. Our list of young people have opted in to our program and are ready to meet their mentors and begin their journeys together. We don’t want these young people to have to wait another minute to be connected with their mentors and start building those critical, life-changing relationships.
So, we ask you to get involved. Take the first step and come to an info session. Phone a friend and invite them. Bring your pets! Prepare yourself for complimentary double-stuffed Oreos and Chex Mix and a community waiting with open arms to welcome you in. We can’t wait to meet you.