Mentoring as a form of activism

The 60’s and 70’s were all about the protests and activism. It’s hard not to think of hippies and  sit-ins at UC Berkeley’s campus when you think of that era.

Our generation has been faced with redefining our own form of activism, and I think we have found it largely by giving back to our communities. It’s a key theme on Michelle Obama’s platform as she makes her case to be the next First Lady of the US. Check out this excerpt from her speech at the Democratic National Convention:

I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history — knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country:

…The young people across America serving our communities — teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

…All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do — that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

…And in my own life, in my own small way, I’ve tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That’s why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us — no matter what our age or background or walk of life — each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.

More and more people in this day and age are giving back to their communities much like the Obamas did and have been doing. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Michelle Obama was a Public Ally, which is an Americorps program that trains young up and coming leaders to lead and serve in the public sector with a year of service at a nonprofit organization along with professional development. BUILD has been working with Public Allies for years, and I’ve had the immense privilege to be working alongside amazing allies like Elizabeth, Quynh, Alison and Naomi.

But I think a trend that continues to rise among young professionals is that they want to do well and do good, and mentoring programs continue to be a popular option for people to give back without giving up their corporate jobs. This is the very reason why BUILD’s mentor program is such a success. Not only do our students get exposure to talented professionals, but our volunteers, in turn, also get their horizons expanded by working with our enthusiastic students. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t a challenge, but seeing mentors really connect with their students is worth that challenge. It changes everyone’s lives; students benefit, and the mentors personally develop as well.

If you don’t already mentor youth, I encourage you to get out there and start affecting the lives of youth. If you’re interested in mentoring our youth at BUILD, check out our website. The BUILD mentor program is a school-year-long commitment from October-May, and our mentors work with our Oakland and Peninsula students in a variety of capacities: helping them write a business plan, guiding them through the business start-up process, and supporting them as they apply to colleges. Apply to be a mentor today as spots fill up fast!

Like Michelle said, “Each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.” By raising up and educating our youth, we take one small step to advance our country.

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