August 20, 2017

A mentor’s superpower? Showing up, Arizona Daily Star

By Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Special to the Arizona Daily Star

Tucson has many youth who could benefit from having mentors—and many youth mentorship programs. What we need more of are mentors—especially men of color, who are underrepresented in these programs. That’s why my office is working to recruit more adults to volunteer as mentors through a number of local nonprofits.

A mentor can be many things—buddy, tutor, coach, leader. Depending on the program, the time commitment can be as little as a few hours a month.

Some programs match mentors to mentees one-to-one. Others take a group approach. Some programs take place at a school, church or club. Others have no set location. Whatever their differences, mentorship programs share a dedication to improving the lives of young people through positive interactions with adults.

Mentors bring a lot to the table—more than they may realize.

Mentors bring experience and know-how.

Think of the student who’s the first in her family to go to college. How does she find out about researching colleges and financial aid, applying to college, and what you need to do once you get in? It’s a lot easier if she has help from an adult who’s been there and can point out what needs to be done and when.

Mentors bring excitement and adventure.

Think of a group of high school students on their first camping trip—learning how to read a trail map, how to set up a tent, how to build a fire. For youth who’ve never been outside Tucson before, experiences like this can be a revelation—changing how they see the world, and how they see themselves in it.

Mentors bring perspective and compassion.

Think of the middle-schooler who’s lost a parent and feels like giving up. How does he get back on track, especially when the rest of the family is dealing with their own grief? Spending time with an adult who’s outside that family dynamic, doing things together that they both enjoy—like going for a bike ride or seeing a movie—can provide reassurance that, over time, things will get better.

My philosophy has always been pretty simple: The most important thing is showing up. That’s especially true for mentors. It’s like a superpower. If you can show up, it doesn’t matter if you’re not perfect. Nobody is. It matters that you were there.

We’re making it as easy as we possibly can for Tucsonans to show up for youth, through mentorship programs that are well-established and offer training and support for their volunteers. We’ve put all the information at one central location, so you can see the wide variety of mentorship programs in Tucson, find one or two that interest you, and ask them to contact you directly with more information. Just visit my website,, to learn more.

There’s a huge need to fill and it’s my hope that, in addition to individuals stepping up, businesses will reach out to their employees and church and civic groups will reach out to their members about volunteering as mentors. There are ideas for how to do that on my website, too.

Use your superpower of showing up and volunteer as a mentor. Make a difference in a young person’s life. Make a difference in our community.

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