I have been so excited recently about a new project I am undertaking with a handful of my fellow Leadership Charlottesville class of 2009 classmates. Leadership Charlottesville is a program through the Chamber of Commerce that takes 36 different civic-minded Charlottesville professionals through a series of sessions on different sectors of Charlottesville living. From the economy to the school system to the arts, we cover every major umbrella sector in Charlottesville, learning more about the needs in our community as well as the resources we can use while working towards remedying those needs. Once led through all of the sessions, the class presents different ?projects? that they?d like to tackle over the next 6 months of the Leadership Charlottesville program and breaks into teams to work on each. The project that I was extremely passionate about and chose to participate in was a community-wide mentor/tutor drive that would provide a pool of mentors/tutors for the many different organizations that need them in Charlottesville, and that will culminate in a one-day event very similar to a job fair, but that will be a recruiting fair for mentors. Having mentored/tutored through several of the organizations that we are collaborating with, I am extremely excited about this project and my team.
In our Leadership Charlottesville classes, we came to realize that in order to have a long-term impact on many of the troubling issues in our community, we needed to reach children from low-income families who are less likely to be involved in organized activities. One of our sessions was held at the Regional Jail and Juvenile Detention Center, where Charlottesville Police Chief Longo told us that the average age at which children make the decision to lead a life of crime and to become involved in gangs is 10 years old. These kids need mentors and tutors who will take an interest in them, share enrichment activities with them, provide tutoring and encouragement for their school work and help them raise their expectations for themselves.
There are many mentoring and tutoring programs in our community, each with a slightly different focus, but all need more mentors. The Volunteer Center recently surveyed these programs and most indicated that they do not have enough time or financial resources to adequately publicize their need for mentors.
We envision a month-long recruitment drive for tutors and mentors in our community, based loosely on a successful model in Jacksonville FL. It includes a public awareness campaign and also encourages companies to support their employees in becoming mentors. It culminates in a March event like a job fair in which those who have signed up or expressed an interest in mentoring can visit with the many local organizations that work with youth and find the right fit. Preliminary interviews and screening can be done at the event.
The United Way Volunteer Center is the community partner helping our Leadership Charlottesville group coordinate with mentoring programs and supporting the public awareness campaign that includes the 70 businesses and organizations that participate in the United Way Day of Caring. The publicity campaign will direct the public to the BeAVolunteer.info website to learn about mentoring and view local opportunities, and will capture contact information to extend invitations to the March event.
If anyone is aware of an organization in Charlottesville (or one of it?s surrounding counties) that may need more help recruiting mentors/tutors, please send contact information my way so they can be included in our collaborative effort. More importantly, if anyone has even a hint of interest in becoming a tutor or a mentor to a child, please be in touch! I would love to get you involved in our mentoring drive and will also offer to personally help match you with the organization and mentoring/tutoring opportunity that will best fit your personality and expectations! Mentoring is extremely rewarding, and each child in Charlottesville who is paired with a passionate mentor is infinitely more likely to become an active member of our community. I believe Colin Powell said very succinctly once in a speech about his passion for mentoring, that you will either spend time, effort, and money building up these programs and organizations to focus on outreach to children, or you?ll spend that same time, money and effort building jails.