Look up the word “mentor” in the dictionary and you’ll find “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Ask any successful person to name an individual who positively influenced their youth, and they’ll probably cite a teacher, coach or family member.
The Penn Workplace Mentoring Program is offering faculty and staff an opportunity to become a mentor who may make a difference in a young person’s life.
The annual mentoring program, operated by Penn Volunteers in Public Service (Penn VIPS) at the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, trains University employees to mentor seventh graders from Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia.
Students from the college-prep charter school visit campus on the third Thursday of each month, from September to May. Each mentee’s day begins with a 9 a.m. check-in with their mentor, followed by a group discussion with all mentors and students. After the discussion, individual mentors share with their students a few hours of a typical day at work. The students leave Penn at 1:30 p.m. to return to school.
Robert “Brother Robb” Carter, associate director of the African-American Resource Center and a six-year veteran of the mentoring program, says he finds it rewarding to witness his young charges experience the Ivy League campus and office culture.
“One of the beautiful things about children is they’re able to find something interesting in something we may not,” he says. “They’re looking at it from a fresh set of eyes. They’re asking themselves, ‘Can I do this?’ They want to know the job’s relevance to the person doing it and the job’s relevance to the University.”
Approximately 20 students have been selected to participate in this year’s program. Isabel Mapp, associate director of the Netter Center and director of Penn VIPS, says volunteers are needed so each student can be matched with an individual mentor. She hopes to match each child with a mentor by Oct. 10.
According to the National Mentoring Partnership, mentoring helps keep students in school, helps young people set and pursue career goals, and helps to improve a child’s self-esteem.
Mapp can recall running into a former student in the supermarket. “She recognized me and stopped me to talk about how the program made a difference in her life,” she says. “She was actually in college when I saw her. That was so rewarding.”
For more information about the Workplace Mentoring Program or to volunteer, contact Isabel Mapp at 215-898-2020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published on September 29, 2011