Big Brothers Chapter Seeking Workplace Mentors

Atlantic General Hospital Vice President of Professional Services James Brannon has mentored his mentee, Montez, for three years. Submitted Photo Atlantic General Hospital Vice President of Professional Services James Brannon has mentored his mentee, Montez, for three years. Submitted Photo

BERLIN — Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake is reaching out toward the Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) community for volunteers for their workplace mentoring program. Besides the specific need for help from AGH employees, BBBSGC is also on the hunt for more volunteers from the Eastern Shore at large for a number of youth projects.
Workplace mentoring is in its fourth year and places students from Stephen Decatur High School (SDHS) into either AGH or the Worcester County Health Department (WCHD). Each student is mentored by an employee from one of the organizations for about four hours once a month and is taught both professional and personal lessons.
“We take high school students from Stephen Decatur High School to each of the two worksites once a month to work one-on-one with a mentor,” said Nicole Benner, program specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters, “as well as to hear guest speakers, to work on skills and to try to motivate them for life after high school.”
For the workplace mentoring, the organization is limited to those affiliated with WCHD and AGH, with mentors from the hospital being in shortest supply at the moment. But when it comes to who would actually make a good mentor, Benner said that a lot of people are hesitant because they aren’t sure they have something to offer the students. Usually, people have more to offer than they realize, with Benner asserting that “a lot of different personalities” make good mentors.
“Really, mentors can be anyone that has something to offer to a student, be it the patience to sit down and work with them or be it a skill that [the student] might not get somewhere else,” she said. “It’s just someone to give them guidance and to motivate them.”
The skills that mentors bring to the table can be career oriented or just something that helps their mentees in life. A mentor might teach their mentee about finance and operating on a budget during one session and then talk to them about just staying organized in day-to-day life the next time they meet.
“A lot of the students have said that the skills they’ve learned they have been able to take out into the workforce,” said Benner. “I think one of my favorite things a student has said was, “My mentor taught me to look someone in the eye and shake their hand, and I’m pretty sure it has already gotten me things I wouldn’t have gotten without that skill.’”
Beyond the mentorship component, Big Brothers Big Sisters also brings in guest speakers that straddle that same line between professional advice and personal insight.
“Some of them are really practical … and some of them are really motivational and inspiring,” Benner said.
The goal is to prepare the students for college and the real world, though if they decide to enter the workforce immediately after graduating high school, Brenner was confident the workplace mentorship lessons still apply when interviewing for jobs, managing life after school and similar challenges.
Students enrolled in the program are all recommended by guidance counselors at SDHS and ideally take part through all four years of high school, though a few have dropped in or out in that time. Feedback from mentors and mentees has been overwhelming positive, according to Benner, with most mentees saying they have picked up skills they might not have without the program and most mentors believing they’ve made an impact.
For the AGH workplace mentorship, Benner is hoping for 15 volunteers and is about two-thirds of the way there. Those wishing to learn more or volunteer for that program or any of the other Big Brother Big Sister Greater Chesapeake youth initiatives should call 410-543-2447.

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