An effort to build up an army of mentors for Tucson youth has attracted more than 120 volunteers who have signed on to help a child in need.
While the community response has been encouraging, the Mentor Tucson Youth initiative, which kicked off in August, is still in need of more adults willing to donate their time.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild used International Mentoring Day on Jan. 17 to reiterate the call for mentors, particularly men of color.
During conversations with local mentoring agencies, the mayor’s office found that not only did these organizations lack a sufficient number of volunteers to meet the demand for mentors, but that men of color were particularly underrepresented, Rothschild said at a press conference Wednesday.
Mentors offer guidance, friendship and compassion young people may not otherwise receive from adult. When researching how to spur young people on toward high school graduation, college and a productive postgrad life, the mayor’s office decided mentoring, not scholarships, could have a longer-lasting impact on Tucson youth.
Nathaniel MacDonald, a construction consultant, can testify to that. Now 29, MacDonald met his then-mentor Mark Casey at the age of 8 through One on One Mentoring. Casey helped him get through high school, playing basketball in the pool, taking him pheasant hunting or just letting him spend the night.
“I was a young kid with no father figure,” MacDonald said at the press conference. “Mark Casey came at a time when I needed a male role model and a big brother.”
Since the launch of the Mentor Tucson Youth initiative in August, more than 120 people have used an online portal to volunteer as a mentor, Rothschild said.
It’s easy to get involved. Explore a dozen participating mentoring organizations and available opportunities at mayorrothschild.com/mentor and fill out a form to get connected with the agencies that interest you. The level of commitment varies from program to program and ranges from group mentoring to one-on-one opportunities. Rothschild is also looking to employers and faith communities to encourage employees and members to invest in a young person.
“Every one of these programs has more demand for volunteer mentors than they can supply, and unfortunately that means some kids don’t get the guidance and support a mentor can provide,” Rothschild said during the press conference.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way in our community. However much or little time you have, you can volunteer and there’s a program for you.”
The connection high school senior Bahati Jackson made with mentor Marsharne Flannigan through Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson helped him find direction.
Jackson, 16 and graduating early, came to Tucson from Rwanda three years ago. Flannigan has helped him learn English and apply to attend Pima Community College.
“He impacted my life,” Jackson said. “I had no idea where I would be. ... He changed my path in a good way.”
Flannigan said that he, in turn, has also grown through the friendship.
“Kids need a voice,” he said. “Someone to let them know what’s wrong and what’s right. It takes a community to raise a child. Everyone needs to do their part.”