Recognizing Young Mentors

Take the Lead Program Manager Preethi Varma shares her views on Team Captains playing an important role during National Mentoring Month.

National Mentoring Month, every January, is a time to not only commemorate the great work adult mentors at Urban Initiatives or around the U.S. undertake, but also to recognize the power of consistent and positive relationships in our day-to-day lives and the lives of our youth. When I think of a mentor, I instantly think of a parent, a teacher, or a coach. They have all played significant roles in the lives of so many people.

Here at Urban Initiatives, we see mentorship everyday. Our Recess Facilitators, Program Associates, and School-Based Program Staff are highly passionate adult mentors who provide a consistent safe space for all Urban Initiatives program participants. In our Work to Play Program and Play with Potential programs, students learn about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. In the Take the Lead program, our 5th-8th grade Team Captains learn about and model positive teamwork, respect, and motivation strategies to develop as a leader, prevent violence in their communities, and prepare for high school.    

More importantly, Urban Initiatives also focuses on building peer to peer relationships that are just as impactful. We facilitate these positive relationships on and off the soccer field throughout the school year. In our monthly Take the Lead Huddles, our Team Captains develop skills they can implement during Work to Play soccer practices and in school. As coaches, we model teamwork, respect, motivational practices, but our Team Captains reinforce that on the soccer field, in school hallways, and at home with their siblings. When we see older Team Captains motivating younger participants, choosing to eat an apple instead of a bag of chips, pushing their friends to bump up their grades, and handshaking an opponent during a soccer game, we know younger children are watching too.

The power of mentorship in underserved communities in Chicago goes beyond helping one student individually make positive decisions, but instead affects how kids ultimately treat each other. Kids influence each other in more ways than we can see. We are investing in our Team Captains to become mentors for our younger participants, and leaders in our communities. During National Mentoring Month, recognize and show appreciation for young leaders. By supporting Urban Initiatives, you are supporting these effective peer to peer mentoring relationships which are integral to our success.

– Coach Preethi

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