“Many mentors show up wanting to make an impact on a child’s life,” said Larry, a volunteer for YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s Reach and Rise Program. “My role is to share positive encouragement as a mentee finds his own direction.”
During most of his professional career, Larry called the shots. After retiring from nearly 20 years in an executive position, he became a volunteer youth mentor in the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s Reach and Rise Program. Larry quickly took a backseat approach, giving his mentee the space to articulate needs and drive their connection.
Cassanora Lampley, Reach and Rise Program Director at the YMCA, said this dynamic is common among mentor-mentee relationships. “Mentors enter the program expecting that youth will benefit from their influence, but our adult participants truly learn and grow,” she said. Mentors like Larry meet with their mentees once per week for a year, with additional activities taking place in group settings. Together, the pairs work to progress toward mentees’ physical, academic, emotional, and/or spiritual goals.
In one partnership, Larry’s mentee entered the program when his mother hoped to introduce positive male role models into his life. Their age difference was significant – Larry in his 60s, his mentee in his teens – but the two recognized common interests, such as a love of playing musical instruments, which began to set the tone for their outings.
Larry represents a portion of the Reach and Rise Program’s core volunteers: retired professionals who seek meaningful ways to spend their time. Young professionals looking to give back are also centric to the program.
Volunteering for Reach and Rise is a long-term engagement, and approximately 80 percent of participants connect to the opportunity through Hands On Nashville. “If it weren’t for our partnership with HON, we likely wouldn’t have the consistent volunteer engagement that drives our work,” said Lampley. Due to such engagement, the program helps youth gain perspective and support for pressures and challenges in their lives, while providing motivation for mentees to reach their greatest potential.
The YMCA strives to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. In that Christian principles are caring and inclusive, the Y respects various expressions of religion and serves people from all faith traditions and perspectives. Browse all volunteer opportunities with the YMCA.