Be someone who matters, to someone who matters

By Wendy Bratt | Contributor

Do you have a story about a person who significantly impacted your life in your younger years? I do. His name was Charles. The most significant and long-lasting impact he had on me, beyond our friendship, was helping me learn that I was capable of going to graduate school. Because of his encouragement, I went for my interview, was accepted, and enjoyed my ensuing career for many years.

I am grateful for having a mentor at a time when I needed it, and I reflect upon that good fortune now as the CY mentoring program coordinator. Although the mentoring program here is a different model than my personal experience was, they both share the underlying elements of unique friendship and making a significant difference in the life of one young person.

Ethan Karshagen and Paul Kissel

Ethan Karshagen and Paul Kissel

The CY mentoring program is eagerly seeking caring adults from our community, particularly men (but not exclusively!), to mentor middle school students for one hour each week. Mentors are often surprised by how much the mentoring process enriches their own lives by sharing joy and fun with a younger person. The satisfaction of being a positive presence in a child’s life is a significant reward. Learning how to be a supportive, caring friend can be a great challenge—and a great gift.

One mentor says, “What I enjoy most is getting a big smile when I arrive and hearing that mentoring is the best hour of her week!” It doesn’t get any better than that!

School-based mentors meet one on one with students during the school day from October through May, sharing in the many activities available in the mentor loft, the kitchen, the Ping-Pong area and other spaces on school grounds.

Research tells us that mentoring gives young people the building blocks to help them avoid risky behaviors and become healthy, successful adults. CSSU surveys find that youth in the program feel better about school and themselves from having a mentor.  One student says, “I feel good about myself and more confident. My mentor is a great friend to me.”

Parents often find mentoring an ally in the parenting process. One parent said, “A lot of credit for my daughter’s strong self-esteem goes to her mentor, who is always happy to see her, never gets mad at her, and is always interested in what she has to say and what she is feeling.”

Sam Zinner and Jim Hyde

Sam Zinner and Jim Hyde

Mentors offer adult support by giving their uninterrupted and focused attention. Over time, mentors can help students see their strengths more clearly, which is something every parent wants for his or her child.

Please consider being someone who matters, to someone who matters, right here in Charlotte!

Wendy Bratt is coordinator of the CY mentoring program at Charlotte Central School. To become a mentor or to connect with your neighbors who already are, contact Wendy at or 425-6642.