Giving thanks for the helpers: we are needed now more than ever.

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In the fairly near future, many of the children entering your local school will become your neighbours, colleagues, and eventually, future caregivers. Every day you are given another opportunity to help determine what kind of future we will share. We have been through boom and bust times before, floods, fires, and crises. We have a strong Alberta tradition of standing up for one another in good and bad, and we need to continue to do this for our young people by ensuring more youth have access to a caring mentoring relationship. Wherever you are in Alberta, there is a young person waiting for someone just like you.

Mentoring relationships are like roots that support young people’s success. Roots support and nourish trees as they develop and grow just like positive relationships with adults nourish a young person’s development by providing them a person who listens to them, offers them guidance, encouragement, and opens doors to new opportunities. Cultivating strong roots improves a young person’s ability to accomplish their goals.

Young people can struggle to create and sustain developmental relationships with healthy caring adults in their life.  This need for strong relationships is vital for all young people, regardless of the colour of their skin, how much money their family has, their gender expression or sexual orientation, or the language they speak at home. An equitable and inclusive community makes sure that all young people have strong relationships and—in particular—that those experiencing exclusion and discrimination have a place to belong.

This Thanksgiving, we give thanks to the thousands of mentors across Alberta have formed positive relationships, provided safe spaces, created opportunities, and promoted positive developmental outcomes. You continuously show the children of our community that you believe in them and their goals. We extend our heartfelt thanks to each of you for your time, your knowledge, your compassion and your generosity. Because of each of you, our children and families know that you walk alongside them to ensure that they have what they need to succeed.

According to our most recent estimate for September 2019, approximately 3000 young Albertans are still waiting to be matched with an adult mentor at one of Alberta’s 170+ mentoring programs: they are waiting for someone just like you.

You don’t have to be a superhero, but you certainly might feel like one. I never cease to be amazed by the thousands of ordinary Albertans who volunteer in schools and community (for as little as an hour a week) to be that caring adult in the life of a young person. I know, that readers like you will step up and help, the same way that someone in your life stepped up and helped you.

Liz O’Neill is Co-Chair of the Alberta Mentoring Partnership and the Executive Director of Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (Also serving Edmonton Lac La Biche, Spruce Grove, and Stony Plain). To learn more about mentoring opportunities in your community, visit albertamentors.ca

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