John Connolly, candidate for Boston mayor, discusses mentoring

The Boston mayoral election is Nov. 5, 2013. Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) reached out to both final candidates to find out how mentoring has impacted their own lives. Here is the response from candidate John Connolly.

Why do you believe mentoring is important?
JRC Head shot 2013I believe mentoring can make a profound difference in the life of a young person, and also create a positive ripple effect in his or her family, school, and community.  A caring and reliable relationship with an adult who is invested in a young person's academic and social and emotional development allows him or her to develop resilience in the face of adversity and the skills needed to navigate the many decisions that are presented in school, at home, and in the community.  Adolescents are becoming independent, but they also need a touchstone, a person they can count on to support them and help them with the toughest moments of growing up.

We know that long-term mentoring relationships are most effective in supporting healthy development, but even a short-term connection at a vulnerable point in a young person's life can change everything. This summer, my office hosted an intern who had just finished ninth grade and was unenthusiastic about school. The women on my staff developed a connection with her and surrounded her with support and encouragement to seek more. One reached out to her grandmother to establish trust, another related her experiences as a teen in Dorchester who attended Boston Public Schools (BPS), and another contacted the BPS to see what schools might be a better fit. By summer's end, she had transferred into a small but academically challenging school and had a new commitment to her studies. A staff member went to visit the school in late September to ensure that she was adjusting well, and they continue to keep in contact with her family.

The combination of emotional support and drawing upon resources to help navigate a path are the keys to being an ally to a young person who faces daunting odds. I think mentorship can make all the difference for many of our young people in Boston.

Who are some of your mentors and what impact did those individuals have on your life?
My high school history teacher, Phil Hansen, made an incredible difference in my life.  I loved his class, but he was also the debate team coach and Model United Nations advisor, both transformative experiences for me.  He believed in me and would push me to constantly improve, which allowed me to really take risks and grow.  I was able to travel and meet students with shared interests while challenging myself. His mentorship helped me discover that I always learn more when I go beyond my comfort zone, a lesson that I take with me to this day.

When I was teaching, I was mentored by Mona Abo Zena, who was the lead teacher at Renaissance Charter Public School in Boston. She pushed me to gain a deeper understanding of the race and class dynamics that affected my students' lives while helping me to develop the teaching skills I needed to reach them effectively. I still reflect on these experiences as I work to ensure that every child in Boston receives a high-quality education.

As both a student and a teacher, I have benefited enormously from the mentors in my life. As mayor, I will work with Mass Mentoring to increase our students’ access to this powerful experience.