Youth Voices: The Benefits of the Early Stages of Mentoring

By Clyde Van Dyke January 14, 2020

Becoming the 4‑H Youth in Action STEM Pillar and National Winner is a result of the 4‑H mentoring program I was a part of. The program taught me lessons about myself that I can confidently say made me the person I am today.My 4‑H mentoring story started when I joined the Broome County 4‑H Tech Wizard Program, located in my hometown, Johnson City, New York. Here is where I was introduced to Kelly Adams, the woman who would eventually become a second mother to me. At first, I had trouble opening up to the adults coordinating the program because I was shy and did not know how to connect with others.

Eventually, I was able to interact with the other youth and started to connect with Kelly on a personal level. She truly understood where I came from and was willing to invest her time in me. I finally felt safe talking to someone about the problems in my life. Kelly wanted to hear what was going on, whereas other adults in my life could not dedicate the time to hear me out. Kelly inspired me to be my best self and to go beyond the minimum expectations.

With this motivation, I continued to try my best in school, challenge myself, and explore 4‑H activities in different project areas. After completing projects in subjects from clothing & textiles to rocketry to Geospatial Sciences, I’ve learned life skills that I use today in my everyday life. Without Kelly encouraging me to try new things, I would not be the respectful, well-rounded young man that I am today.

I started out as your “not-so-typical” kid with a difficult childhood. I was very shy and did not know how to open up and interact with different types of people. With the guidance and care of my mentor, Kelly Adams, and with the resources provided to me by 4‑H, I learned that I can ask questions, and I will continue to do so. I learned that I can make the most of the cards with which I have been dealt. I have Kelly to thank for my successes and for being my mentor, friend, and a second mother.

Mentoring is just one of many resources that 4‑H has provided to me to be successful. If there is one takeaway I want you to get from my story, it’s that joining a mentoring program is one of the best ways to grow and to learn! I encourage other 4‑H’ers to take advantage of afterschool mentoring programs and all that they offer. You will walk away with a new perspective on life and make a few friends along the way!