Listen to this article

As we enter into this month of Thanksgiving, I am reminded how grateful I am for youth mentoring programs. Years ago, my son entered into a mentoring program in middle school, and his mentor stayed with his guys as they moved on to high school.

The mentoring program gave structure in times when there were hardships and tough social negotiations. The guys in my son’s team were from different backgrounds, but they learned to trust and count on each other. This lead to a healthier experience in school and allowed each of them better educational success.

As my son enters his senior year in college, he and his mentor are still close, and the team still gets together when they can. This year, in particular, as my family suffered a significant loss, my son’s mentoring friendships has been a source of strength and healing.

Regardless of income status or home life, mentoring programs increase positive relationships and self-esteem. Mentors can play a strong role in shaping who our children become, how they connect to their world and their educational and personal successes. As I’ve witnessed, a once-a-week interaction can become a lifelong friendship.

Consider mentoring. You don’t need special skills to serve as a role model and make a lasting impression, just a positive outlook and willingness to interact. A good place to start is with the Champaign-Urbana schools’ mentoring program, CU 1-to-1 ( The impact you have can make a world of difference.