January may be the beginning of the year, but it also serves as National Mentoring Month. This campaign, which began in 2002, helps recruit individuals who help guide younger generations toward their goals.
Mentorship is extremely important because it helps children on the road to success and leadership. According to research done by the University of Delaware and Connecting Generations, young adults who were at risk of falling off-track but had a mentor are 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions.
Despite this, however, one in three children do not have mentors in their lives, which drastically increases the need for and importance of mentorship programs.
Thankfully, there are some badass women out there making sure younger generations have the mentors they so desperately need. Four such women – Annalie Bonda, Shaleah Laché Sutton, Ashley Coleman, and Tola Lawal – have dedicated their lives and talents to serving the youth.
Annalie Bonda is the executive director of The Remix Project in Toronto, which gives children from disadvantaged areas access to free educational programs that help them build their natural talents. The organization also has a location in Chicago.
Bonda herself has seen the importance of mentorship in her own life, so she tries to use what she learned from her own mentor to give back to others and help them grow.
“The most important lesson my mentor, Garret Louie, has taught me is how truly valuable it is to work hard and put in the extra effort,” she said. “As the executive director at the Remix Project, I try my best to live up to the same principles my mentor revealed to me over the years.”
Shaleah Laché Sutton has also seen the effects of mentorship in her own life and has channeled her experiences into creating Uniquely You Summit, an annual event that brings black girls from the greater Philadelphia region together and teaches them the importance of self-esteem.
Sutton, who has lived through many of the same struggles as the girls in the event, is now using her experiences to act as a mentor to the young girls who attend the summit.
“We want to create an experiential dialogue and outreach that aids in eliminating the perception of isolation,” she said. “Our hope is that by discovering the universality of their feelings and experiences, the barriers to becoming their best and most unique self are removed.”
Ashley M. Coleman is another kickass woman who is providing mentorship to young women, this time through her love of the written word. Coleman created WriteLaughDream, a program that uses coaching and writing to inspire people to find their voice through writing.
“Young women are not short on intelligence or innovation, but they require mentors and women of influence to show them what is possible and provide room for expansion,” she said. “We are living in a time where youth feel stifled before they even get started because they often compare themselves to others on social media. But creating more positive communities and safe spaces both on and offline to build women up makes for a better society for us all to thrive.”
Last but certainly not least is Tola Lawal, who founded Gyrl Wonder, an organization that helps girls ages 13-18 reach their goals through mentorship and other resources. Other than a mentorship program, they also have a dialogue program called Gyrl Talk.
“I wanted to create an opportunity to for them to meet with and speak with professionals who looked like them,” Lawal said. “I wanted to show them they too were placed on earth for a reason.”
Hopefully, through the work of these four badass women and others like them, we will see younger generations of women who are empowered and ready to act as leaders. And the month isn’t over yet, so it’s not too late for you to become a mentor as well!
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