The Red Sox Mentoring Challenge and Partners for Youth with Disabilities

Since 2005, Mass Mentoring Partnership has teamed up with the Boston Red Sox for the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge, an initiative designed to recruit more caring Massachusetts adults as mentors. We've just launched the 8th year of the campaign, and we're highlighting programs that participated last year and made successful matches through the campaign. This is a post from mentor Doug Upton with Partners for Youth with Disabilities.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and your mentee, what mentoring program you’re involved in, and how long you have been matched.
    I’m a 44-year old man who moved to Boston over 12 years ago. I’m a volunteer with Partners for Youth with Disabilities' (PYD)  Mentor Match program, a program that matches mentors with young people who may share similar experiences with illness or disability. I was matched with my mentee Manuel in February of 2008, and we are approaching five years together as a match. Manuel enjoys visiting the library and museums, and taking a walk through the city when the weather’s nice. He’s always ready to cheer Boston’s home teams!
  2. How did you hear about the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge and what prompted you to get involved as a mentor?
    I became motivated to become involved as a mentor after spending over a year recovering from a tough illness. I decided that it would be good idea to help other people - the way so many people helped me. I came to PYD in 2007 after looking for opportunities to work with youth, and specifically youth with disabilities. Prior to learning about PYD, I had tried to work as a volunteer with youth that had experienced an illness like I had. In trying to do so I met great resistance until coming to PYD. As a person who has experienced stroke, I have a lot of common experiences that can help Manuel navigate the learning delays and other challenges he has due to his condition.
  3. What lessons have you drawn from the Red Sox team and its players about what it means to be a mentor and a role model?
    Like the Red Sox team, being a mentor means always being there in the field – whether we’re winning or we’re losing.
  4. What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a mentor?
    Seeing the growth and maturity of a very promising young man, full of potential. Recently,  Manuel initiated a conversation about going to college, and how he's contemplating choosing a school outside of Boston. He's eager to have a sense that he can live independently. I was very happy to hear him speak in these terms and to give this so much thought. I have no doubt that his sense of confidence and his maturity is a real result of the opportunities provided by PYD, including the Mentor Match program and Access to Theatre.
  5. What would you say to those who are on the fence about mentoring (i.e. those who think they do not have enough time, expertise, etc)?
    It’s surprising how easy it is – all I need to do is lend an ear or be there for somebody.Manuel’s personality has come out in the time we have spent together, and I have witnessed him becoming increasingly comfortable in social situations. A couple of years ago, I worked as an English as a second language teacher and brought Manuel on a field trips with my students to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Manuel had a fun day with the other kids and helped me with some of the teaching, he was helping the students learn names of (the glass) flowers, and of course he had them in stitches by the end of the day with his comic routines. Our relationship is a great example of a mentoring relationship that is beneficial to both mentor and mentee.