One fact I’ve learned from my experience working with kids in economically disadvantaged areas of Dallas this past summer is how critical mentoring can be to the educational achievement of a child.

Children are faced with instructors of various types – their teachers in school, their parents, their sports coaches, and the supervisors at the volunteer centers in which they spend their days. But oftentimes the guidance that an adult provides falls on deaf ears compared to the guidance offered by a mentor who is closer to their age.

A mentor is a powerful role model for a young student because a mentor represents a physical embodiment of achievement and the results of positive habits. While an adult can offer advice or chastise a child for acting out, working with a mentor shows to the student that they can accomplish success if they work hard.

I worked with a group of third-graders on a research project this summer, and one of my students was researching Slinkys, their history, and how they came to be, and ran into a rut because he couldn’t find anything interesting about Slinkys. As a part of the project, the students had to find a certain number of articles and “wow facts” to create a power point presentation, and he was becoming frustrated and didn’t want to finish his project. I guided the student with some questions, and asked to look into who invented Slinkys, and to research into their life, and sure enough, he found out that Richard T James, the inventor of the Slinky, came up with the original branding message and jingle during his time with a cult in Bolivia!

Sometimes students need a push and reinforcement to peak their curiosity to want to reach the expectations their instructors have for them. Just as in Homer’s Odyssey when Telemachus needed the eponymous Mentor’s guidance to achieve his destiny of saving his father, mentors can have a tremendous impact on a student’s life even in day-to-day activities.