President Barack Obama has designated January 2013 as National Mentoring Month.
“Mentors know that helping a child unlock their full potential begins with care, guidance and support — which is why my administration is proud to celebrate mentorship nationwide through programs that help young people see the strength within themselves,” he stated.
Research has shown that volunteer mentors can play a powerful role in reducing drug abuse and youth violence as well as boosting academic achievement. Mentors help to build young people’s character and confidence, expand their universe and help them navigate a path to success.
Kids on the Rise (KOTR) is a local organization that functions to provide mentors to students in Cumberland County schools who may be facing difficult challenges in life.
Deanna Magdich has been a volunteer mentor with KOTR since 1997 and also serves on the board of directors. She became involved after hearing a presentation about the agency at a Rotary Club meeting.
“It appealed to me because it would just be me and a little girl,” recounts Deanna. “After attending the training sessions, I was assigned to a seven-year-old girl, and we liked each other immediately.
“She lit up when I walked into the room, and I realized that I also lit up when she was with me,” continued Magdich.
This mentor/mentee relationship continued for seven years. Although they did not see each other every year after that, they did keep in touch. Magdich attended the mentee’s high school graduation. A year later, she was invited to her wedding.
"Our relationship was best expressed in a thank you card she sent me,” said Magdich. “She wrote ‘I am so thankful for your being my mentor. Everything you did and tried to do was for my benefit, and I am truly grateful. You made a difference.’"
Magdich is now mentoring a 14-year-old girl. They have been together for seven years, and she expects to also have a life-long friendship with her.
“My experience with these two girls has been one of the highlights of my life,” said Magdich. “I may have been there to help them along the way, but I have learned a lot about today's world and the challenges young people face from them.
“It is hard to know who has benefited more — them or me,” she added.
KOTR currently serves 57 children in Cumberland County schools. Despite the benefits of mentoring, the gap between the number of mentors and the number of young people who need a mentor continues to grow. There are currently 30 children waiting to be placed with a mentor.
“We have phenomenal mentors who are just as committed to this program as Deanna Magdich,” said Donna King, executive director of KOTR, “but, we definitely need more.
“I would love to see us have a long list of mentors who are waiting to be placed rather than a long list of children having to wait,” King continued. “A supportive mentor can mean the difference between struggle and success.”
For more information on how to become a mentor, contact King at 459-2388.