DENTON — January is National Mentoring Month, and Tuesday morning, Jan. 12, the Caroline County Commissioners also declared January Mentoring Month locally. This year the Caroline County Family YMCA is celebrating the quality mentoring opportunities that connect young people with caring adults through their mentoring program, the YMCA Caroline Mentoring Project.

“National Mentoring Month is the time of year where engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is at its highest. This year, with the support of the mentoring community, we are encouraging the public to go beyond just digital engagement — and become involved in real life. Mentoring relationships are at their best when connections are made between a caring adult and a young person who knows that someone is there to support them, talk to them, and help guide them through real life decisions,” Angel Perez, program coordinator.

Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are:

• 55% more likely to be enrolled in college

• 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities

• 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities

• More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or on a sports team

Yet, the same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor. Today, in our community, there are kids who could benefit from having a mentor.

“Mentoring really gets to the heart of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” as adult community members volunteer their time and talents to impact young people in a positive way. Sometimes a young person just needs an additional caring adult to help them realize their potential and the Caroline County Family YMCA celebrates the work of its mentors through our YMCA Mentoring Project program,” said Brian Byrnes, executive director.

Currently 18 kids are enrolled in the program with 17 volunteer mentors, Perez said. Meetings are being held virtually. Their goal is to expand to serve 25 mentees.

Mentors must commit to year and volunteer at least four hours a month.

To help raise awareness of the program, the YMCA is conducting an “Adopt a Sign” challenge. People throughout the county can request a sign, free of charge, to put in their yards helping spread the word about this program.

If you are interested in helping market the YMCA Caroline Mentoring Project or in becoming a mento, please contact Angel Perez at 410-479-3060 or carolineymcamentoring@ymcachesapeake.org.

National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation. Each year since its launch in 2002, National Mentoring Month has enjoyed the strong support of the President and the United States Congress. Other prominent individuals who have participated in the campaign include: Maya Angelou, former President Bill Clinton, Clint Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Cal Ripken Jr., Bill Russell and Usher.

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