Stephen Powell, Executive Director of Mentoring USA was featured in an NJ.com article showcasing the work he and Mentoring USA do for kids and their communities. Mentoring USA strives to bridge the educational achievement gap that faces many minority students in underserved communities.
By: Anne Brasco | NJ.com | March 11, 2014
Every so often life offers us an opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of others. We seek out these rare chances to affect the world around us because we wish to give. We hope that our actions will matter. In life’s sweet irony, these opportunities often not only prove to be powerful but are often mysteriously transformational for all involved.
One of these invaluable opportunities lies right within our very community and awaits the dedication of passionate, committed, and enthusiastic folks to make a difference.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Powell, the Executive Director at Mentoring USA, about the transformational work his organization is offering underserved youth.
Mentoring USA, headquartered in New York, continues to create sustained and supportive mentoring relationships for children in need ages seven thru twenty-one. Mentoring USA has made tremendous strides in Newark, NJ and the surrounding communities.
This fabulous organization works with faith communities in Newark, corporations, and local local institutions to recruit employees, students, and members to mentor Newark youth. Mentoring USA works with Bloomingdales, the Steve Harvey Show, and NASDAQ to offer our underserved youth various opportunities for growth.
Stephen Powell, a New Jersey native who was born and raised in East Orange and Newark, personally understands the positive influence that mentoring can have on the trajectory of a person’s life. At five years old, Stephen lost his father after kidney surgery. Although Powell had a strong-minded mother who offered him a basis of spirituality, respect for education, and what it means to be a man, there was a gap. There was also the pressure of being labelled as “the man of the house” coupled with the absence of a father figure.
In Powell’s youth, he was fortunate enough to have informal mentors who stood in that gap and shaped his life in a meaningful way. Powell recalls that is was the positive influence of friends who encouraged him to join track and field. It was his high school coach who served as an informal father figure. These people made all the difference. Without their guidance, love, and support, Powell would not be the individual he is today.
Powell points out that it is the individuals who our youth hang out with between the hours of 3pm and 7pm that will shape their lives for better or for worse. We must ask, who is pouring into their spirits? Who is leading our youth by example?
These questions coupled with the influence of a rapidly changing world poses various challenges. Powell refers to this dilemma as “slow cooked values in a microwave society”. Who will take the time to instill self-esteem, joy, trust, and hold the hands of our future as they prepare to face the world?
Mentors come from all backgrounds, all denominations, and all experiences. Mentoring requires a one hour per week commitment. Mentors participate in a screening process and receive extensive training and ongoing support and guidance.
For individuals unable to make the time commitment to mentor but wish to become involved, there are many ways to make a difference.
There are opportunities for strengthening the bond between community organizations, institutions, and corporations. There are also episodic mentoring opportunities, as well. Visit Mentoring USA’s website for relevant information. There is also a link on the website of Mentoring USA to donate. Donations are fully tax-deductible, as allowed by federal law.
In an ever-changing, fast progressing world infatuated with immediate results, Mentoring USA offers a rare opportunity to make a difference in a more extraordinary, far-reaching way.
In the words of respected leader, Oscar Romero, “We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development.”