This guest post is written by Lesley White-Buefort, who serves on the Diversity Council of Big Sister Association of Greater Boston
I have a confession to make. I became a mentor as a way to meet people in my new community when I left Bermuda to take a job in Connecticut. My entrée into mentoring was completely selfish. That was around the spring of 2002. Since then, I have been a mentor, one-on-one to young ladies who were court mandated into programs, and young ladies who simply wanted a buddy, confidante or sister of their own. I have also been a mentor in a group setting, teaching basic baking skills to young ladies in a residential treatment center. As selfish as my reasons for becoming a mentor were, I feel like I get more from the young ladies than I give them. To me, mentoring is so very rewarding.
In 2004, I signed up with Big Sister Association of Greater Boston and became a Big Sister to a 14-year-old young lady from Dorchester – a match that lasted, in Big Sister’s files, until she turned 20. I chose Big Sister out of the many mentoring organizations in Boston for one reason: I believe that our girls are special and deserve programming specifically for them. I liked the fact that Big Sister’s focus was solely on girls.
Since I began mentoring, I have learned a few things about myself but more importantly, I’ve learned a few things about the importance of mentors in communities of color. Whether you are aware of it or not, there was no doubt someone in your past, or present that has had a hand in helping you to get where you are today – be it at work, socially, or in an educational setting. I believe that all of us who are able owe it to society to pay it forward.
Young women of color today face challenges in all aspects of their lives. The images they see in the media serve only to reduce their self-esteem. They are faced with bullying, which used to mean someone “picked on” someone else in the schoolyard. However, with today’s advancements in technology, young women, and young men for that matter, face bullying via electronics – a post on a Facebook page or Twitter feed takes that bullying to greater heights. Bullying that was once limited to the schoolyard and maybe the block now has the power to spread across the country. YouTube and other such websites have made it possible for young people to broadcast fights which unfortunately rack up thousands if not millions of hits in a matter of hours.
Studies have shown that young girls with mentors are less likely to be the victim or aggressor of bullying. Girls with mentors are less likely to get pregnant. They are more likely to graduate from high school and move on to college. Girls with mentors are less likely to join a gang or use drugs. Girls with mentors are more likely to become involved themselves in some form of community service.
Rather than volunteer as a mentor, I now sit on the Diversity Council of Big Sister Association of Greater Boston – our mission is to increase the number of women of color in the Greater Boston area. You do not need to be a lawyer, doctor or high-earning executive to be a mentor. You simply have to have the desire to help a young girl grow to her fullest potential. To paraphrase Aibileen Clarke in Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help,” each young girl DESERVES to grow up believing that she is kind, smart and important.