Q&A with David Shapiro: The power of building healthy youth mentoring relationships

Mentoring is all about relationships and the mutual trust that we build with a mentee by consistent commitment and support. As we celebrate January as national #MentoringMonth, it is important that we understand how building bridges and connections between mentor and mentee is a form of social capital that can ultimately lead to youth empowerment and success. A "Social Capitalist" approach to mentoring proves that by forging healthy relationships with youth and leading by example, mentors can provide opportunities to access new networks, teach social norms, and build social capital.

Who knows best the power of youth mentorship than David Shapiro, the CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. David has dedicated his life to creating the vital connections between mentor and mentee, allowing youth across the United States to acknowledge their own self worth and begin their path towards success. We decided to speak with David about his experience with youth mentoring:

Q: What is your definition of a mentor?

A: A mentor is someone who helps young people succeed by offering consistent guidance and support to encourage them to set achievable goals. More simply, a mentor is an adult committed to showing up for our young people.

Q: Can anyone be a mentor?

A: Yes, any caring adult committed to showing up can be a mentor. By being a consistent presence in a young person's life, mentors show young people they matter. Now more than ever, we need people to step forward to fill the need for more caring adults in the lives of our young people - mentoring is an accessible pathway to action.

Q: What makes you happy to go to work everyday as the CEO of MENTOR?

A: Our role at MENTOR along with our affiliate network of Mentoring Partnerships is to unify the field, to elevate innovative practices, to set the standards for safe and effective techniques, and to advocate for public policies that integrate quality mentoring programs. We have seen deep impact in our work to grow the movement and address some of the deepest challenges faced by our nation's youth, and I've enjoyed being a part of that progress.

Q: What opportunities do you think that mentorship provides to the youth that you work with?

A: Mentoring helps young people succeed, especially those youth at-risk of becoming disconnected from work, school and the community. Through consistent guidance, support and encouragement, mentors help young people set goals and achieve them. When done well, the stability and security of a mentoring relationship can be the very thing a young person needs most. It's a gateway to the kind of skill development, goal setting, and belief in one's self that leads to a fulfilling future.

Q: Please provide your favorite example of mentorship in action.

A: I don't know of a favorite example, as I'm constantly inspired by the work ethic, values, creativity and determination of people I see every day. However, in remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month, let us also remember someone whose energy for shared connection, opportunity, and prosperity truly personified the power of mentoring. Mentoring is a potent form of standing with others as an ally, friend, activist, advocate and bridge builder. It also ensures that our lives are intertwined in ways that are not one-time, but lasting and impactful. Dr. King's commitment to the service of others, including our young people was inspiring, and one I remember and try to live by each day.

David Shapiro's work building healthy, impactful youth mentoring relationships has inspired SCI to honor him with the 2017 SCI Idealist Award. He exemplifies our mission of connecting individuals with one another, increasing our social capital and in turn creating healthy, safe and prosperous communities.