Mentoring money is well spent

Girls Inc. Director Deb Ansourlian occasionally takes a turn at mentoring.

Set against the backdrop of the proposed $40 billion state budget, $750,000 to pay for student mentoring programs looks like a drop of water in an ocean.

But that amount represents a 50 percent spending increase over the amount allocated by state legislators last year to support mentoring.

The funding boost will allow 500 more young people to be paired with mentors next year, said Mass Mentoring Partnership, an organization advocating for the spending increase.

The proof is in the pudding with mentoring programs and it’s not hard to find successful ones. Girls Inc. pairs women with girls. Even the nonprofit’s director Deb Ansourlian takes a turn at mentoring. She said it helped refresh her commitment to the agency.

Another great mentoring program can be found at English High School where peer mediator Ginny Keenan helps students resolve conflicts with their peers and teach their friends to trade conflict for cooperation.

Saugus teachers Maureen Lueke and Sofia Hennessey started small, but aimed high to make mentoring work in their community. They founded Next Steps to Success and provided academic mentoring to five students this year. They want to expand their program into the next academic year using a modest $5,000 stipend to pay for staff, supplies and other needs.

Mentoring is an amazing way to transform lives because it is based on the impulse that prompts a person to refuse to turn their back on someone who is struggling. It’s easy for a teacher or anyone who works with kids to say, “Well, I’m too busy to help on an individual basis,” or “Hey, there’s only so much I can do. Let someone else handle it.”

But mentors like Ansourlian, Keenan, Lueke and Hennessey understand the secret of mentoring: Spend time in someone’s life, tell them a little about your own and plant a seed that can grow a Sequoia.

Teenage participants in Girls Inc.’s mentorship program talk about making dishes they would have never tasted and learning games they would have never played if a mentor had not helped broaden their worlds.

Unlike parents, coaches and teachers, mentors do not operate in a world of right and wrong: do this, don’t do that. They teach lessons about trust and communication, about learning how to confidently ask advice. At their very best, mentors inspire others to join them, which means every dollar spent on mentoring programs is an investment promising a very good return.

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