The National Mentoring Summit

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At the end of January I had the opportunity to attend the National Mentoring Summit in Washington, DC. This event is organized by Mentor, a non-profit which promotes mentoring programs throughout the United States and brings together major youth mentoring organizations, along with government, civic, research and corporate leaders, to evaluate best practices, review new research, chart the field’s future and fundamentally ensure that more youth receive quality mentoring. Compass’ HOPE Youth program, funded by the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, has transformed into a mentoring program specific to serve youth who identify as LGBTQ. Surprisingly, Compass’ Mentoring Program is one of only three LGBT youth mentoring programs in the nation.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a class at the summit titled “Mentoring Gay Youth: Strategies for Support” along with many other various trainings one could attend. The fact that the issue of sexual orientation is being discussed at this level is very exciting, and mentoring programs around the country being trained in how to support LGBT youth is pure icing on the cake. As youth develop (in mentoring programs especially), the issue of sexual orientation is bound to come up, either through a youth’s experiences or that of a friend. Some mentors don’t have the skills to handle these kinds of situations, and I’m pleased to see that this topic is taking place on the national stage.  Compass’s philosophy is simple. As youth go through the stages of mentoring, they are encouraged to explore college as an opportunity and expand their horizons on career options, among other things. We provide the helping hand in the form of mentors and our youth become better people as a result.

This year’s summit featured keynote speaker, First Lady Michelle Obama.  She offered inspiration and gratitude to this year’s summit attendees when she said, “people like mentors help others know that a child who grows up surrounded by doubt and fear and negativity can still feel loved and inspired and hopeful for their future.  In times like these, we are on our way to building a culture where no child should ever feel like they are on their own.”

We have the responsibility of ensuring that the next generation of our community becomes mentors to the generation after that. This “pay it forward” philosophy ensures that we create a helping hand for our youth.  Investing in mentoring can go a long way, and by lending our experience and wisdom, gives us hope that it will give someone the strength to reach a little higher and dream a little bigger.

Julia Murphy is the Program Development Director at Compass Community Center. She can be reached at Julia@compassglcc.com