Oh Captain, Young Captain

By Risa Isard



Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Ambro

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Ambro

Let’s start with the basics.

Something you know about me by now: I hold my mentors in high esteem and enjoy being a “mentee.”

Something you don’t know about me yet: I don’t like movies and I love mentoring others.

It probably comes as no surprise that of the few movies I do enjoy, a disproportionate number of them fall into the “drama” genre and center on a young person’s coming of age as a direct result of a meaningful mentorship (think: Dead Poet’s Society, Finding Forester, The Emperor’s Club, etc).

The thing is, mentors don’t have to look like the main characters in these movies.  To state the obvious, mentors can be women.  Perhaps less obviously, though, mentors need not be middle-aged or older. You, high school superstar, college student, and recent college graduate, can be a mentor.  But to whom?

1)     Mentorship program participants
Whether it’s mentoring a young person through a Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Best Buddies, or Girls on the Run type of organization or a recent alumnus who signed up for your college’s (or high school’s) alumni mentoring program, formal mentor relationships are perhaps the easiest to establish.  If you want reach others and aren’t sure where to start, try finding a program that will match you with someone who is actively seeking a mentor.

2)     Youth
Do you babysit for the family next door or spend your summers as a camp counselor? Chances are, the kids and teens you work with hold you on a pedestal and are going through some of life’s growing pains. You’re already a role model for these kids, so why not step it up a notch and actively mentor them?

3)     The next generation of your organization
RAs and orientation leaders play important roles in the lives of college first years; team captains are vital in all levels of sports; sorority “Bigs” have the opportunity to talk with their “Littles” about real issues; and established members of the company can help to bring along interns and other young professionals.  Even if you’re not in a formal leadership position in your organization, you can take a younger/newer member under your wing.  Having a year under your belt makes a big difference.

4)     Friends and family
Younger siblings almost always look up to their older siblings.  The same goes for younger and older cousins and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles.  Don’t have younger siblings, cousins, or nieces/nephews?  Don’t be afraid to establish a relationship with your friends’ younger siblings.

You need not have lived for 40+ years, have reached the pinnacle of your career, or have figured out everything in your own life to be able to offer valuable advice to others.  Regardless of how young you are, you have lived through experiences and gained wisdom that can positively influence the people in your life.

In the words of John Keating, Robin Williams’s character, “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” That is, what will your legacy be? Whose life will you change?


risaAbout the Author
Risa Isard  graduated from Duke University (2012), where she designed her own major in social change, gender, and sports and earned honors for her thesis about the prehistory and early years of Title IX. She is an “everyday athlete,” has been published on espnW, and also blogs at I’m an Athlete, Not a Princess.  She recently landed her first “real” job as the Community Relations Coordinator for the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple A affiliate for the San Francisco Giants.