Want to do something great for your health, community? Help mentor a younger person

Middle school is no picnic. Between a larger school, harder classes, puberty and peer pressure, I’m amazed I survived. When I think back on it now, I realize one of the things that helped me stay afloat was my band teacher, Mr. Peterson. 

Mr. P, as we called him, was “hip” for a school teacher. He played drums in his own 1970s rock band and wore paisley shirts and bell bottom pants (yes, I’m that old). Mr. P would let us come down to the band room during study hall and practice or help organize music in the band library. He let us “hang out” and joked with us, taking an interest in our lives. 

More importantly, he listened. He could tell when I was overwhelmed or nervous about something — whether it was a solo in band or a problem with a friend. He knew how to push me- — just enough — to get me to figure things out for myself or master a new piece of music.  

Later in high school, Mr. P was my jazz band instructor. I was a pretty shy kid, with a self esteem of 0, but Mr. P saw something more in me. He invited me to be in the varsity jazz band when I was only a freshman. He knew I was terrified but that I trusted him. He magically (in my eyes) found a way to challenge me in a supportive manner until I was holding my own with the seniors in our band.

Though I didn’t end up choosing music as a career, the support and lessons I learned from Mr. P helped shape me into a more confident and compassionate person.

During January, which is National Mentoring Month, I give thanks for the mentors in my life like Mr. P.  Mentors are important resources in our lives and the lives of our children.  By simply facilitating connections, mentors help youth with personal growth and education support, parents and caregivers can find an ally or two to assist in their child’s development, teachers can have their work reinforced, and the mentors themselves can grow from engaging with their mentee(s). It’s a win-win system that is easy to facilitate and from which all benefit.

During this month-long awareness campaign, I encourage you to do two things. First, thank one of the mentors in your life. Whether your mentor is still with you or not, find a way to show appreciation through a letter, email or even just sharing with others the impact your mentor had on your life.  

Second, get involved with mentoring in our community. Become a mentor, support a mentoring program, or get your children involved with something that could change their lives. 

In Homer, we are lucky to have a wealth of mentors and mentoring programs in a variety of areas: school sports, Community Recreation coaches, school teachers, a variety of music instructors, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Homer Council on the Arts, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Pratt Museum, Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, Homer Cycling Club, Kachemak Bay Running Club, HoWL, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Pier One Theatre, faith-based programs, Kenai Peninsula Youth Court, Rec Room, and the list goes on and on. 

If you don’t feel you have the time to be a mentor or coach yourself, make a donation or attend a fundraising event with one of these organizations. Research shows that donating and volunteering can improve your health and prolong your life. I’ll say it again, it’s a win-win system.

Mentoring programs might be one of the most valuable, simple initiatives for communities to readily support themselves. Individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits can all work together to increase the number of mentors and assure brighter futures for our youth. 

In honor of National Mentoring Month, Big Brothers Big Sisters is sponsoring the following events that are all open to the public. We hope you can attend and share your own mentoring story.

Jan 13: Presentation at Homer City Council at
6 p.m.

Jan. 18: Mentoring Month Fundraiser at Homer High School from 5 to 7 p.m. Help us say thanks to all our “Bigs” and enjoy food and entertainment. Stay for the HCOA Stepping Out community talent show afterwards in the Mariner Theater. Tickets on sale at the Homer Bookstore.

Jan. 30: Free Movie Night at the Homer Movie Theater at 5:30 p.m.  Title TBA (will be rated PG or G). Winners from our Mentor Writing Contest will read their entries prior to start of the movie.

Start something Big this January.

Jenny Martin is the community director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Homer. For more information about the program call her at 235-8391, email Jenny.martin@bbbsak.org or go to the website www.bbbsak.org.