The Bench Mark Program – A Powerful Mentoring Model

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Kim Patrick

If you google mentor, you will find many suggestions on how to be a mentor or start a mentor program.  Mentoring is good and important work.  Famous people have exalted the value of mentoring for good reason.   

Denzel Washington said, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”  

Steven Spielberg eloquently tells us that “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”  

Research shows unequivocally that mentoring is a good business practice. It leads to greater retention and diversity and creates work environments that are supportive and attractive to job seekers.  Career mentoring is most common in the business world.  Mentors help employees to advance in their careers and navigate opportunities and obstacles. 

Youth mentoring is a different type of mentoring, one which requires adults to guide young people in their journey to adulthood.  But what if traditional mentor programs are not successful for all young people, particularly older youth who feel disconnected from traditional mentor programs.  What happens then?  Who cheers these young people on? 

Will Kiefer is the Founder of the Bench Mark Program, a fitness based mentor program for older youth in Lancaster County.  His program serves as a model for other communities on how to create “the delicate balance of mentoring someone while not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”   Will does this in the simplest of ways, one young person at a time. Through weightlifting, Bench Mark helps young people to see themselves differently and to see possibilities that they could not see before.   

Listen to the podcast with Will Kiefer of the Bench Mark Program, and go to their website, https://www.benchmarkprogram.org .  While the mentees might not be in the business world (yet), the value of the mentor relationship is the same – lifting others up, meeting them where they are and walking alongside them.   

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