Santiago Martinez's life would be different from what it is today had he never met Travis Dockter.
Five years ago, Santiago found himself a "lonely, disconnected" young man headed down a self-described "wrong path" in life, as the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports. Dockter had recently moved to Rochester to begin his job as a statistician inside Mayo Clinic's Cancer Center and, as the paper reports, was "looking for a way to give back and make connections in his new community."
Their lives would intertwine thanks to a "mentor/mentee" match by Bolder Options, a Rochester-based youth mentorship organization. Their formal mentoring relationship ended after Santiago finished eighth grade, but Santiago and Dockter have "become close friends and have continued finding ways to spend time together ever since," the paper reports. As Santiago tells it, that relationship with Dockter has directly contributed to him becoming a "more confident and successful" young man and a graduate of Rochester's Alternative Learning Center. "Without Travis as my mentor, I probably could have ended up going down a path that was not a good thing for me," Santiago tells the P-B. "Just having that person to talk to was huge."
There will soon be many more like Santiago and Travis if Kim Van Rooy has her way.
Van Rooy, director of Mayo Clinic's Volunteer Programs, and others have been working to promote mentorship through their involvement with Leadership Greater Rochester, a 10-month leadership program sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. "As our LGR group conducted research in the community, we discovered a gap in services. There weren't enough mentors available for kids like Santiago who could benefit from having a role model in their lives," Van Rooy tells us.
The group reached out to 10 Rochester-area youth groups as well as a statewide mentoring network called Mentor MN. The goal was to "make mentorship opportunities more accessible" throughout Rochester. They also created a website called "Be the Bridge" that serves as a one-stop-shop, if you will, for all mentorship needs and opportunities throughout Minnesota. "If someone's interested in becoming a mentor, all they need to do is go to the site, fill out a brief questionnaire of the kinds of mentorship opportunities they're looking for, and the local organizations will then take it from there," Van Rooy tells us. "It really is that simple."
If you're wondering if you have what it takes to be a mentor, both Van Rooy and Dockter say don't overthink it. "All you need to do is be yourself and commit to spending some time together each week," Dockter tells us. "Because that time really is important and really does make a difference in their lives."
Just ask Santiago.
You can read more about “Be the Bridge” here and here. Then build a bridge of your own by leaving a comment below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.