Mentors to mentoring programs

by Kenneth Cerini
Published: March 31, 2009

Growing up, many of us had that special person who was a source of encouragement, support and friendship. It was someone who took a special interest in you and served as what could be called an informal mentor. However, many children do not find that mentor, and that’s where the Mentoring Partnership of Long Island steps in.

“We want to connect caring adults with all school-age children, as mentors, role models, people who will provide them encouragement and support,” said Jean Cohen, executive director of MPLI. “Our research says the power of mentoring comes from the strength of the friendship, and whatever the case may be, we all need mentors.”

What is the mission of MPLI?

MPLI believes every child needs a caring adult in his or her life to become a healthy adult. Research has shown that children who have a caring adult in their lives have a better chance of staying in school, out of gangs and away from drugs. The No. 1 reason kids give when asked why they dropped out of school, is that the one person who cared about whether they succeeded, had left their life.

What type of services do you provide?

We understand that there are already a lot of great youth organizations that work within our communities. We capitalize on those resources by providing them with expertise and mentoring to run their program. MPLI is a free resource to any nonprofit or organization that wants to start a mentoring program; we’ll teach them in classes how to effectively run programs and continue to support and provide training for many years. Once an organization becomes part of our program, we support them for as long as they’re in existence. Currently, we work with 211 mentoring programs which are all unique. For example, the Lawyers Involved in Kids Education program, founded by two attorneys from Certilman, Balin, Adler & Hyman, sends lawyers once a week into classrooms who play different types of word games with children.

What are MPLI’s greatest challenges?

The first is that we need more people to volunteer as mentors, and secondly we need more mentoring programs, because there are communities where there are still no programs. This is especially so in Suffolk County where it is harder for children to get to a centralized location. So we would like to recruit more mentors and recruit more people who would be willing to start up a program.

How do you gauge the success of the mentoring programs?

Mentoring is a preventative tool, so you won’t know for a long time how successful you’ve been. Therefore, we gauge the success of the program based on how strong the relationship is between mentor and mentee. We have different scales that measure the strength of the friendship, and where improvements could be made. Many of the relationships forged between the mentor and mentee last for many years.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a mentor?

I would emphasize that mentoring is really easy, and it’s fun for the adult. Inherently, we all want to do good, and this is one of those volunteer opportunities that will change your life as much as the young person you’re helping in a very positive way. Mentoring only requires one hour a week, and it’s not difficult. It’s just being a friend to a child.



Mentors to mentoring programs