Welcome to the February Mentor Minute! Last month, we introduced five key character qualities that we can look to build into our students in 2020. These qualities are known as “The Five C’s of Youth Development,” and include: competence, confidence, connection, character, and compassion.

The question we should all be asking as mentors is, how do we build these kind of qualities into our students? This week, we’ll continue to answer that question by taking a closer look at the fourth quality: CHARACTER.

Remember, character means “recognizing the rules of society and culture, and having a sense of responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, personal values, spirituality, and integrity.”

Students who grow in character are able to take the wide range of societal and cultural messages they receive and filter them in a healthy way. They’re able to do this by learning which messages have the most meaning for them and how they impact their personal values.

As mentors, we can build character into our students in a couple of ways:

  1. Take the time to talk with your student about personal values and beliefs. As a mentor, you can help your student learn the value of understanding how people and cultures think and behave differently. You can also encourage them to learn how to think for themselves rather than simply going along with the crowd. A good place to start might simply be to talk about where your families originated, what your backgrounds are, and what traditions you have had.
  2. Remind your student that you are there to listen and help with issues they are facing. As you get to know your student more (and build more trust), you’ll probably find that your conversations with them go deeper than the surface. Your student may bring up issues involving right and wrong, personal character, and responsibility. In those situations, you can be a caring, non judgemental listener and offer ways to think through the situation they are facing. You may also want to encourage them to think about how they would like others to see them as they work through it with you.

However you end up helping your student build character, make sure that you start by taking the time to learn about their cultural, family, and personal values. This will go a long way to building trust with your student as you seek to help build the quality of character in them.

Check back next week as we take a closer look at how to build the quality of caring and compassion in the students we mentor!

–Jason Matthews, BTO Mentor Coach

After 5 years with her mentor, Shelby almost doesn’t remember how or why they started meeting, but she thinks it was because she was spending a lot of time in the counselor’s office at middle school. She had some stresses in her life as the oldest of four siblings in a single-parent household and a younger brother with autism. She frequently felt anxious and overwhelmed. Her mentor, Cindy, became a reliable consistent friend during 8th grade, and then made the transition with her to high school. Through the ups and downs, Cindy has been there each week to listen and provide support at every turn, whether Shelby talked about grades, family stuff, relationships, getting a job, or applying to college. Shelby describes Cindy’s importance in her life this way: “Having someone to talk to about things that I don’t want to talk about with my friends is so helpful. I have had a harder life than most of my friends, and they don’t really know how to help. Cindy has life experience, remembers what I tell her, and has good judgement.BTO Coorindator