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Mentoring Matters: Celebrating National Mentoring Month

January 01, 2017

By Peter J. Taylor, ECMC Foundation

Several years ago, I overheard a conversation at a freshman campus orientation that I will never forget. At the time, I was the Chief Financial Officer of the University of California, and slated to deliver a welcome speech to students that day. While trying to review my lines, I heard a young lady ask her friend:

"When do we break for lunch?"

Lunch wasn't listed in her fall class schedule, like it had been in high school, and she was worried that there was no time to eat.

The friend kindly explained a college class schedule and offered to show her the ropes. Unlike her, he had older siblings and parents who had gone to college. They provided him with ample advice about surviving college and being away from home, a luxury many students from disadvantaged backgrounds– many of whom are the first in their family to attend college—don't have.

This conversation between the two incoming college students highlights, among many things, the value and importance of mentorship.

We meet our mentors through different phases of our lives and they are a valuable resource to help us navigate unknowns and uncertainties. Mentors come in various forms and exist both within and outside the world of education. Some examples include: a college advisor who answers daunting questions about the SAT, college applications and financial aid; a teacher who never gives up on a struggling student; a coach who pushes student athletes beyond their self-imposed barriers; or a boss who takes interest in furthering his or her employees' professional growth. For the young lady at the freshman orientation event, it was a new friend who helped ease the stress of adapting to the new norms and routine of college life.

I have been fortunate to receive the support and guidance of many wiser and more experienced colleagues and mentors over the years. There are countless stories I could tell, but one great example is from when I first entered investment banking, my profession for 20 years prior to higher education. I remember feeling like a fish out of water. I was a freshman banker with a background in government, and everything—processes, jargon, work culture—was foreign.

The managing director of the bank where I worked proved to be an invaluable mentor, providing me her counsel and professional advice. As the first female managing director at the bank, she understood what it felt like to sail through uncharted waters. It was through her mentorship and guidance that I found my way through the confusing maze.

January is National Mentoring Month. To celebrate, ECMC Foundation will highlight stories from our grantee partners that show the importance of mentoring. Listen to the voices of students, school leaders, and education professionals who have all benefited from the guidance and wisdom of mentors. These stories offer a glimpse into why and how mentoring matters. Please join us in celebrating our biggest champions.

Peter J. Taylor

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