When you meet soft-spoken LaDonte' K. Lee, you probably wouldn’t think that he’s affected many people in Charlotte. Mentoring has been an organic process for him.
The heart of mentoring, Lee said, is assuring young people that you care, that they are not alone when it's time to tackle the day and, most importantly, that without distraction, they matter.
“I believe the major benefit to mentees that I've encountered is that they know they have a caring adult other than their parent or guardian who cares and believes in their potential and ability to grow and become,” Lee said.
Ample studies show that strong mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a wide range of personal and academic environments.
“A mentor is someone who will unselfishly give of their time, energy, talent and treasures to benefit the personal growth and development of an individual, youth or group of people,” Lee said.
One in 3 young people, however, will grow up without this crucial aid.
Now, as the high school initiatives manager for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, Lee said the mission of the YMCA defines his work.
"We know that building stronger and healthier kids, adults and families comes about when we all work together," Lee said.
Lee said that a critical piece of mentoring is to allow knowledge, skills and wisdom from the experiences of one trusted and wiser individual to be transferred to the next generation of leadership.
“It allows the mentee, if they are receptive, to learn and perhaps avoid pitfalls or mistakes that their mentor experienced, which may save time, money, freedom and perhaps their life,” Lee said.
The importance of a positive mentor can not be understated. He said a mentor is someone who can help you through your trials and difficulties with encouraging insights and help you navigate a different journey when the path being traveled might be detrimental.
“I remember my mentor setting a variety of opportunities and times for me to talk with him,” Lee said. “He always listened to my issues and concerns without judgment and gave his solid advice and counsel on how to navigate whatever I was facing.”
It appears that mentoring comes as a natural extension of Lee and his spirit.
In the fall of 2016, Lee met a young man named Dahmani. Dahmani was incarcerated when he was charged with severely beating a man. He had never been in jail.
“It was just a lonely, struggling experience,” Dahmani said.
It was his senior year of high school.
“I was able to provide a short term of intense mentoring while in he was in custody,” Lee said.
After Dahmani was released, Lee connected him with another caring adult outside detention at his school.
“I continued to check in with him periodically to make him aware I was still invested in his journey of graduating school and going to college,” Lee said.
With the support of his mentors, Dahmani not only graduated but was accepted at North Carolina Central University.
A mentoring relationship for Lee is a shared opportunity. Most of all, Lee said, he tries to help young people realize their potential while learning about himself and changing their life, and his.
A valuable resource in Charlotte for the mentoring community is the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance. The alliance educates mentoring organizations about best practices and mentoring standards, ignites impactful and enduring mentor-mentee relationships and connects Charlotte’s mentoring community.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance is asking for nominations for deserving individuals or organizations that have made a difference in the lives of Charlotte children and youth through a commitment to mentoring.
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