Why Young People Need Mentors
Kate Hadley, Director of Mentoring
Yoda and Luke Skywalker. Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Socrates and Plato. We’re all familiar with famous mentors and their protégés, both real and fictional. But what does mentoring look like for an everyday teenager?
Mentoring is crucial to helping middle and high school students learn about themselves, grow in confidence, and strive for character growth. Many schools offer group advising, but the best mentoring program is one that focuses on an individual, highly personalized experience with each student. It gives a young person the opportunity to converse about her life one-on-one with someone she trusts. It’s a way for her to reflect on her own growth with the guidance of someone with a little more wisdom and life experience. Mentors discuss what’s happening in a teenager’s life and ways she can grow and improve.
In-school mentoring should rest on a few core principles. First, it should aim to help students grow in self-knowledge and encourage them to embrace both their strengths and struggles. By constantly working on themselves, they are equipped to serve others and make the world around them a better place.
Second, all of us—young or old—need figures in our lives to keep us accountable and guide us as we work towards our full potential. Mentoring helps you learn that you will always need people in your life to mentor you, in every different facet of your life. And to not be afraid to go for help. Even as you grow into an adult, you have mentors who help you financially, you have mentors who help you spiritually, you have mentors who help you learn how to parent. This is a concept that’s an underlying principle of our mentoring program.”
Deep trust and respect should be at the heart of each student-mentor relationship. Students appreciate when mentors not only give advice and insight, but also take the time to thoughtfully listen to what their mentees have to say. A good mentor cares about not only a teen’s academic growth, but also about her social, physical, and character development—she is known and valued as a whole person.
Parents also have an important part to play in the mentoring process. Ideally, the mentor should serve as an essential link between parents and school. Students can discuss with their parents the goals they have developed with their mentor. Parents and mentors should be in contact throughout the year. With this unity between the parents and the mentor, young people have a tremendous advantage as they navigate through adolescence and young adulthood.
Kate Hadley is the mother of ten children, four of whom are Oakcrest graduates–Elizabeth (‘98), Cecilia (‘99), Claire (‘02), and Meghan (‘06). She holds a B.A. in Economics from Notre Dame of Maryland University, and has a deep connection to Oakcrest as a parent and staff member. Mrs. Hadley has served as Oakcrest's Director of Student Mentoring Program for 13 years. She was also Director of the Parent Support Program for many years, organizing speakers, giving parent education talks, and supporting the parents in their role as primary educators. She has trained as a Moderator and runs Family Enrichment classes (IFFD).