WHAT’S IN IT FOR MENTORS?

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BACKGROUND

This quotation raises, and then helps us answer, the question, “Do volunteers derive any benefits from mentoring?” The potential rewards to mentors are rarely considered in youth mentoring. Instead relationships are conveyed mainly in terms of the mentor selflessly giving to the mentee in a decidedly one-sided relationship. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that mentors stand nothing to gain. In fact, when mentors don’t derive benefits, relationships are at greater risk for early termination. One-sided relationships drain mentors of enthusiasm and leave mentees feeling burdened by the imbalance.

Alternatively, when mentees see that admired adults find it personally rewarding to spend time with them, they feel a new surge of self-worth and empowerment.

Frank Riessman’s helper-therapy principle-that people help themselves through the process of being genuinely helpful to others-is particularly applicable to understanding the considerable rewards of mentoring.1 The sense of efficacy and pride that can come from being admired and helpful may well be a driving force in the positive changes commonly observed in mentors’ lives. As the saying goes, “if you help someone up the hill, you get closer to the top yourself.”

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