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The Mentoring Wishing Tree

Young people place their dreams of what they would like to learn to do on a wishing tree and potential mentors select the young person they are most excited about helping.

Photo of fjr
11 15

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You know how shopping malls at holiday time often have trees on which needy children have attached their holiday wishes? Passersby look at what is on the tree and pull down the wish they would most like to fulfill to make a child happy.

What if an organization approached big companies and foundations such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Boeing, the Gates Foundation, and others that encourage their staff to volunteer and asked to place a rack or tree of some kind in a common area? The rack or tree, rather than displaying needy children's desires for coats or toys, would show young people's wishes for the career-readiness sorts of skills they would like to learn?

[If a physical tree sounds old-fashioned, let me share that the Gates Foundation in their visitor center already now has tree-like racks where visitors are encouraged to hang an index card describing their intentions for community service. There isn't any matching function involved in the Gates Foundation tree/racks, but there could be]

Employees would be encouraged to mentor one of these unemployed young people in the area they identify. A company like Microsoft already pays employees for a large number of hours of volunteer time, which makes it easier for potential mentors to make the time commitment.

To augment the physical trees, there would be an online matching platform that would be promoted to companies to encourage their professional staff to volunteer as mentors.

How will your concept support young people as they transition into the world of work?

Young people from privileged backgrounds often have access to mentors, internships, and resources to pursue their dreams. Other young people do not have any avenue for making such connections. A relationship with a mentor can offer a role model, advice on career development, and the teaching of skills. If a young person shows promise, the mentor may even be able to assist the young person in becoming connected to a network of people who might be able to help the young person on his or her way.

What online or in-person components of your concept will best support this transition?

Mentors and young people could communicate in person or online or both. Exactly how they would work would depend on the special skills and interests of both the mentor and the mentored. Young people could post their mentoring wishes on an online platform, sharing their background, interests, and geographic location so that mentors who want a face-to-face relationship with the mentee could mentor someone nearby, and those who prefer to mentor people who already have certain skill sets could do so.

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Photo of Carol Shu

Such a great idea! I could see this easily being incorporated into university internship & career centers. I think most schools already have online databases where students can search for internship & job opportunities but a mentor database seems more important for giving students real-world knowledge and preparing them for internships & jobs.

Photo of fjr

Thanks, Carol. I really important part of this is the other direction. That is, there has to be an attractive way of getting mentors to take interest in particular students. Many people might not want to volunteer to be part of a bank of mentors willing to be contacted by lots of people but would be happy to pick from among the people whose descriptions make it seem like a good match from the mentor's side.

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