One Powerful Relationship

Fall is my favorite season.  Watching the leaves change, feeling the crisp air, walking into a warm home after being outside on a chilly day, and spending extra time with family and friends are just a few of the reasons that I’m grateful for fall.  As I focus on gratitude this holiday season, there is a common theme surrounding my reflections: mentorship.

A mentor is a friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors.  A mentor is a confidant, a listener, an advocate, and a support.  Mentors fill many roles, both formally and informally.  I have had the opportunity to build my career around the powerful gift of mentorship.  As a mentee, I have benefited from the experience, time, and patience of several people who took a chance and made an investment in me.  As a mentor, I have watched young people build skills and grow their self-esteem and interpersonal relationships.

Whether they are entering kindergarten or college, all children and youth can benefit from a mentor.  Mentoring is not just about preventing negative behaviors; it’s about encouraging achievement, helping young people find their passion(s), and supporting them while they overcome life’s hurdles.

We know that mentoring makes a difference. Research confirms that young people who participate in mentoring relationships experience powerful positive impacts on personal, academic, and professional aspects of their lives (MENTOR).  Yet 1 in 3 youth will grow up without the support of a mentor.  1 in 3 youth will not have the extra source of stability and support that they need to succeed in school and in life.

I am blessed to be able to say that I have had many mentors throughout my life. Three years ago, however, I lost the most influential mentor in my life to cancer.  I did not realize how much his mentorship meant to me until he called to tell me that it was terminal.  I will never forget that phone call; he did not sugar-coat it at all.

Hey, you.  I wanted to let you know that we heard back from the doctor and I’m not going to make it – no tears for me, okay?  Do me a favor and hug your little one tight tonight…you never know how long you will have with her.  Then go to work tomorrow and continue to show the world why you are here.”

Just thinking about that conversation makes me laugh and cry at the same time.  Rod was a no-nonsense, ‘say it how you see it’ gentleman.  Yet he was always able to do so in a way that maintained integrity and professionalism.

Though I have had many mentors in my life supporting me and guiding me, none have been as influential as Rod.  Here’s why: “What many aspiring leaders fail to realize is that mentoring relationships need to go both ways to be lasting and mutually beneficial.” – Nick Craig

I never understood until reading that sentence why Rod’s mentorship meant so much to me…  You see, Rod and I took the time to learn from one another.  He didn’t see me as a young professional with nothing to give to the relationship, even though his 35+ years of experience trumped my novice background in the nonprofit/public sector.  We worked on our leadership skills together, we pushed each other, and we often disagreed with one another.  But we always did so respectfully, and we never ended a conversation angry.  Rod and I had a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship.  We grew together, and we pursued common goals together.

I hope to continue the ripple effect that Rod’s mentorship had on me by inspiring my mentee as Rod inspired me and supporting her during her leadership journey.  That is what mentoring is all about.

As you reflect on gratitude this holiday season, I encourage you to think about the mentors who have helped you throughout your life.  Consider who inspired you to achieve your goals and dreams.  Think about who pushed you to succeed, and who refused to give up on you.  I challenge you to get involved either formally or informally mentoring a less experienced person.  Remember, it only takes one.  A mentor could be the difference for a student between staying in school or dropping out; and, engaging as a citizen or disconnecting from school, work, and civic life (Shapiro and Spencer).  One powerful relationship can truly change a person’s life.  My life was forever changed by the power of one.

Join Communities In Schools of Mid-America this Giving Tuesday by pledging to make a contribution.  The gift of your time, your talent, or your financial support fosters relationships like Rod’s and mine.  Together we are #GivingForKids.




Cheri Faunce, Director of Resource Development
Communities In Schools of Mid-America

About Giving Tuesday: On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.  Anyone, anywhere can get involved in Giving Tuesday and give back in a way that is meaningful to them.  From fundraising to volunteering #GivingTuesday is a great way to engage our community and become part of a larger worldwide movement that promotes generosity.



It seems fitting that our first blog entry coincides with the start of the school year. It’s late August 2018, and if school hasn’t begun in your community, it soon will.

In our blog, you’ll hear from a variety of writers…staff members, board members, stakeholders, community members, and others.  We’ll cover a lot of topics, and we’ll raise a lot of questions.  We’ll seek responses, too.  None of us possesses all the knowledge we need or want, so seeking wisdom and evidence and best practices from the largest community possible just makes sense.  As our blog goes on, we’ll talk about the issues facing our children and teens, the issues facing families in poverty, how Communities In Schools of Mid-America can help with those issues, which intervention models demonstrate meaningful evidence, and much more.  There’s a lot to talk and think about.  So let’s get started…

We’re living in the midst of tremendous dichotomies, and it is vitally important that we be able to hold contradicting truths simultaneously.  What do I mean by contradicting truths?

  • The historically important American guarantee of a quality, free education is accessible to some and inaccessible to others.
  • Many kids are learning to love learning, and many of their classmates have given up on school and learning as early as their elementary years.
  • The academically successful sixth-grader sits in class next to a trafficked, hungry sixth-grader.
  • Valedictorians and dropouts emerge from the very same schools.
  • Valedictorians and dropouts emerge from the very same families.

Sadly, every one of us can add to that list.

Today, given what we already know is happening with, to, and around our young people, I want to issue a single, simple call to actionDo something to support your local schools.

  • Talk to the neighbor who’s a teacher, ask what $20 would best support for his or her classroom (I’m willing to bet basic supplies will be the answer), and go buy those supplies. Or donate directly to a local school supplies drive.
  • Volunteer. It’s easy. They’ll have something.  Call the school, tell them you want to volunteer at the school, and they can get you going.  If not, call your United Way, which typically works with the school system, or your local education foundation, or a non-profit that works with schools such as Communities In Schools or Boys and Girls Clubs.
  • Make a donation to your local schools foundation or one of the non-profits working with schools. Make it a good one, in whatever way “good” is for you.
  • Attend the local school board meetings; learn, and speak up when it’s important to you.
  • Run for the school board. If that’s not right for you, campaign for a school board candidate you think would do a great job.

Thanks for joining us for our first blog post.  Come back; we’ll be posting regularly.  And let us hear from you.  If we’ve ever had a need for collective wisdom, it’s now.



Malissa Martin, President and CEO
Communities In Schools of Mid-America