By Pastor Rick Grant
As a young person, I often heard the colloquialism, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That statement rightfully implies the plethora of love, nurture, and stability our young-people need from engaged, present adults. Mentoring reaches far beyond giving advice; and it’s more than social activities. Through mentoring, adults exemplify how to handle daily life. The adult teaches and models the attributes of character, integrity, and success.
As the founder and former pastor of Rescued Church Boston, I have worked with youth for more than 15 years. In my former capacity as director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU) Boston, I saw firsthand the need for more mentors for our young people, which is why, along with other local faith leaders, I am partnering with Mass Mentoring Partnerships (MMP) as a part of the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement. We see it as our duty to amplify the natural mentoring that occurs in faith communities as well as to encourage community members to volunteer at formalized mentoring programs. All of this is being made possible through support from Bank of America.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Movement was launched in 2014 with the initial goal of recruiting 1,000 new mentors to serve Boston youth. To date, more than 2,500 mentors recruited through Bostonmentors.org have been matched with young people across the city of Boston through mentoring programs serving youth in a variety of settings. The volunteers include adults who live and work in the city as well as many city of Boston employees.
Mayor Walsh has stated “We know that mentoring relationships lead to brighter futures for our young people and stronger neighborhoods. We will continue to recruit more mentors to ensure that every young person has access to these empowering relationships.”
Houses of Worship have long been community gathering places where neighbors not only celebrate faith but also take part in activities like youth ministry, which focuses on teaching life skills, strengthening faith, and building self-esteem. Often these ministries are run by part-time youth ministers or volunteers in the congregation, but the need for more adults to provide intentional support to young people in the community is still great.
We have a need for adults who are “credible messengers” to mentor our young people. To those who’ve traveled through the terrain of systemic racism, poverty, and violence, you are the embodiment of hope and endurance. The wisdom you have is invaluable and necessary. Mentors are the bridges to success!
Prospective mentors state that time constraints are a common barrier to volunteering; however, many mentoring programs can be worked into busy schedules and require as little as an hour a week. Another potential barrier is that many adults may want to volunteer with young people but may not know how, or need additional tools to deal with the multitude of challenges a young person might be facing. This is why collaborations between community programs and an organization like MMP are so key - it’s important that mentors are taught how to mentor.
Founded on a bedrock of research and best-practices, MMP empowers mentors with understanding and the tools to engage young people effectively. The work with faith communities also allows MMP to meet the community members where they are with information and resources. MMP gives out more than a half-million dollars to formal mentoring programs throughout the state ($142,500 in Boston alone) and provides training and technical assistance to over 350 programs statewide, in addition to working with school districts and workforce investment boards, corporate mentoring programs and state agencies.
This critical work is supported in large part by the state mentoring line item, as well as grants that MMP provides, and through individual and corporate sponsors like Bank of America. Grant money from Bank of America allows MMP to bring quality resources to the community without burdening community programs with the cost. Oftentimes, funding is allocated to program implementation, leaving little for staff or volunteer training, but with the assistance of the bank, MMP has been able to help fill that gap for many programs across the Commonwealth.
Serving as a strong partner to MMP, last year the bank invested more than $75,000 in the field to bring quality practices that dive deeply into the existing research on youth mentoring to enhance program practices and relationship strategies that facilitate meaningful mentoring relationships and positive outcomes for youth and adult participants.
Since 2015, the bank has invested more than $375,000 in the field of mentoring, serving as a leader and supporter of mentoring through the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement and sponsoring important data tools and resources for the field like the Mass Mentoring Counts biennial report.
Again, it certainly takes a village and I am so grateful to partners like MMP, the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement, and Bank of America for being so dedicated to ensuring that we do everything we can to make an impact on the youth in our community. The question is – will you step up to do your part? You could be the one to truly make a difference in a youth’s life.
Pastor Rick Grant most recently served as the Deputy Director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU) Boston. He is the former director of the Boston Ten Point Coalition and founded and served as executive director of Rescued Church.