The single most important factor determining the future of a child is the presence of a consistent and caring adult. Just one. At least one.
While in some ways disadvantaged by a lack of stability and nurturing early on, children born into violence or poverty often develop ahead-of-their-age resilience, adaptability, self-reliance, and survival skills. It’s a mentor’s job to uncover those strengths and empower their full expression—ensuring, if you will, that every child’s potential is recognized and encouraged for the benefit of themselves, their families, their communities, and all of society. Special attention to and investment in this young potential is essential if we are to build a future better than our present.
January is National Mentoring Month and a great opportunity to celebrate the many ways mentoring initiatives are affecting the next generation. To start, we look at two vastly different approaches to the same goal: Connect youth to committed, caring mentors as quickly and consistently as possible.
Interestingly, both organizations—together serving thousands of children nationwide—were founded by individuals with their own experiences of fragile support systems during childhood. They are living and rippling proof of the exponential impact mentoring has for all of society.
We begin in the Bronx with The Arthur Project (TAP), a startup mentoring organization focusing on mentor support during the fragile, chaotic years of middle school.
For TAP co-founder Liz Murray, any bright spots in the middle school experience were shaped by hallway homework sessions with her upstairs neighbor and family friend, Arthur. A long-time friend of her parents, Arthur would often show up with an extra pot of chili or stew, knowing that in the chaos of addiction, feeding the kids was not always possible or prioritized.
“I remember being right about middle school age and he came in,” says Liz, “things had taken a turn, they got really bad. He was realizing we were starving. Bringing those pots of food was no longer enough. Our parents were using drugs, needles, out in the open in the kitchen. Needles spread out across the Formica table top. They’ve got arm ties, they’re shooting up. I’m watching TV like 10 feet away with my back to them. Arthur comes in with a pot of food and he looks, he snaps off the TV, ‘Hey, why don’t you come to the hallway Liz, bring your homework, let’s talk.’”