Submitted by dsong on
AmeriCorps Staff

As we start the new year, we also take the time to share our gratitude with mentors. Mentors who’ve helped influence and guide us to become better. This National Mentoring Month, we thank all our AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors mentors who serve every day to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. 

From Boys & Girls Club Kid to CEO

AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith is one person who shares his gratitude for his mentors every day. As a Boys & Girls Club participant, he understands the importance of mentorship and their support in communities, especially for young adults.

AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith

“I was born to teen parents in a poor Black neighborhood in Springfield, Mass. We did not have a lot of money, but we had love in excess and a village that nurtured and guided me from day one.  

Beyond my church, the center of that village was the Family Center Boys & Girls Clubs. I was a member since elementary school. My mother sent me there for cheap daycare, but it became a second family – a crew of mentors, coaches, and advocates and an insatiable appetite for community service and civic engagement.  

It was at my Boys & Girls Club that I first met AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers and AmeriCorps members, along with all kinds of volunteers. They read with us, took us camping, taught us about Black pride and social justice, and gave us the opportunity to serve and care for our community when we were still little kids. These volunteers were people with so little but gave so much that made all of the difference for me and my family. They are, in my way, why I was able to dream big dreams and reach some of them.”

Like AmeriCorps CEO, mentorship can guide the next generation to fulfill their potential, but it can also change the life of the mentors. AmeriCorps board member Flor Romero joined AmeriCorps when she attended the University of California, Los Angeles. As a first-generation college student, Flor discovered AmeriCorps as a way to pay for her education while leading literacy lessons and mentoring children through JumpStart. Like all AmeriCorps members, she received the Segal Education Award after completing her service, which helped her achieve her goal of grad school. “Going into my graduate career, I had a lot of skills under my belt. I had more confidence, the skills, and the Segal [Education] Award, which was going to help me.” 

AmeriCorps board member Flor Romero

President Biden’s Solution to Today’s Challenges

Learning loss was a significant challenge we faced as a nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw the extensive disruptions the pandemic caused in our nation’s schools and a disproportionate impact on underserved communities pulled back the curtain on the challenges facing our students, our teachers, and our schools.

In July 2022, AmeriCorps joined the Department of Education and the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center to answer President Biden’s call for 250,000 mentors and tutors to address these challenges.

Together, we launched the National Partnership for Student Success – a public-private partnership between the Biden-Harris Administration and a diverse coalition of education and service organizations committed to providing the academic, mental health, and other support students need to succeed. With more than 140 champions across the country supporting NPSS’ mission, an estimated 187,000 additional adults have served K-12 students since the program’s launch.

AmeriCorps members serving with Breakthrough Central Texas

One champion that supports NPSS’ efforts is Breakthrough Central Texas, an AmeriCorps national college preparation program for low-income middle school students. The program offers out-of-school learning opportunities, helping students overcome systemic, societal barriers to earning college degrees. AmeriCorps members who serve with Breakthrough Central Texas provide academic support, guidance, and resources students need to succeed. Our return-on-investment, a study that measures the value of federal funding invested in education-focused programs, found that Breakthrough Central Texas returns as much as $54.56 of value to the government and communities for every federal dollar invested. Not only this, but the program also increases growth in high school and college graduates among participants.

Thank Your Mentor by Taking on the Torch

The importance of mentors can be seen everywhere. From leaders to students and young professionals kicking off their careers, we see the impact mentors and tutors have all around us. 

This National Mentoring Month, consider making a difference in someone’s life. Whether helping children understand their emotions or guiding students on a path to success, serving as a tutor and mentor can make a world of difference. As President Biden said, mentoring can “give young people a chance to connect with others — to discover who they are, what they care about, and how to achieve their dreams. Any one of us can have a positive impact on a young person’s life if we take the time to let them know that someone is on their side.”

Start your service journey during the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service, or find mentoring opportunities in your community.