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Booker, United Way Put Out Call for Mentors

Success stories of lives impacted on display at Public Officials Forum.

and Newark Mayor Cory Booker combined forces Tuesday evening to intensify a call to recruit mentors to help improve and strengthen the region.

During the eighth United Way Public Officials Forum, both United Way and Booker shared multiple success stories of lives bolstered by the support of mentors. United Way and Booker asked the audience of more than 350 public officials, corporate and civic leaders to join them in championing the influence of mentoring. 

“Mentoring may sound small, but it holds the key for profound change,” Booker said. 

Booker spoke about how believes no one succeeds on their own, including himself, and that mentoring holds the power to transform lives and communities. He cited a program he instituted in Newark matching fathers exiting prison with male mentors. The result has been a 65 percent decrease in recidivism among the participants–saving taxpayers millions of dollars. He challenged the audience to think about the amount of time they spend in front of a television watching shows like "Jersey Shore" or "Jerseylicious" and use that time instead to join the mentoring movement.

“You may be busy, I’m busy, too,” Booker said. “But what’s four hours a month when there are tens of thousands of children on waiting lists at mentoring programs across the country?” 

United Way provided steps individuals and companies could take to get trained, mentor, or provide financial support for mentoring initiatives. 

United Way pledged to grow the number of individuals who take its free, 12-hour mentor training program by 50 percent in the next year, up from 200 trained in 2011. In a release, the group said its training is recognized nationally as a model program for preparing effective and committed mentors. 

“We’re all mentors and we’re mentoring all the time,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO John Franklin. “Our kids, their friends, our co-workers, our coaches, our team members–they’re all watching us … Be the best mentor you can be.”

United Way of Northern New Jersey recently expanded access to its mentor training across all five counties represented in its regional footprint; Morris, Somerset, North Essex, Sussex and Warren counties. The training, available in Morris County since 1998, has trained some 2,300 mentors. The expansion is in concert with United Way’s commitment to participate in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Corporate Mentoring Challenge and United Way Worldwide’s pledge to recruit 1 million mentors.

The group's release said research done by Big Brothers Big Sisters has shown that youth who spend time with a caring mentor for at least one year are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, and 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol.

Mary Emilius, United Way’s chief professional officer in Sussex County, shared how she, along with a network of mentors through the United Way-supported Circles program, helped a single mother of three break out of a 10-year cycle of poverty to become a full-time French teacher at Kittatinny Regional High School. 

“Guada Jacob has gone from depending on the assistance of social services and using the local emergency room as her doctor’s office to paying taxes and contributing to our community,” Emilius said. “And she’s paying her success forward. Today, she’s a mentor to a new Circles family.”

The event’s corporate sponsor, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, shared how the company believes its investment in mentoring makes for a smart business model. Dr. Usman Azam, head of U.S. Medical and Drug Regulatory Affairs, spoke about how Novartis provides face-to-face peer groups that provide career support as well as mentors for Newark high school students to help create a diverse, local, future workforce.

“These programs help Novartis breed a collaborative, innovative, and productive culture and help drive the high performing team concept that is so integral to our business,” Azam said.

Those interested in more information about the United Way Mentor Center can email Michelle Roers at Michelle.Roers@UnitedWayNNJ.org or call 973-993-1160, extension 116.

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