By Xavier Williams

People have always invested in me, so I made a personal commitment long ago to give back as much as I could.

That’s why for more than a decade I have mentored young people, as people have mentored me, through my church, fraternity and workplace.

And this investment of time and commitment has paid off, not just for the students that I have mentored, but for the community and for me personally.

With National Mentoring Month coming to a close, it’s a great time to consider mentoring.

I can’t tell you how many times students have come back to me and said, “Hey, that time you put your arm around me and encouraged me really made a difference in my life.” You never know when you’re touching people, be it big or be it small.

So I signed up immediately when AT&T launched the Aspire Mentoring Academy with the goal of providing 1 million hours of mentoring to students at risk of dropping out of high school.

Aspire Mentoring Academy is mobilizing AT&T’s 240,000 employees with three ways to mentor: at the workplace, in their communities and online. That way, we can mentor a lot, or a little, and know that we’re making an impact.

I’ve been paired with a Dallas high school student and will be mentoring for the first time online, through one of our e-mentoring programs.

It’s a natural evolution. And even though communications have changed, it’s still about connecting with people and helping steer them based on your life experience, but with today’s technology.

According to mentoring.org, students who meet regularly with mentors are less likely to skip school and have a better chance of going to college. Mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships and helps young people set career goals and realize them.

Everybody wins.

Students benefit. When they see that someone cares, they’re willing to invest in themselves. In many cases, they don’t know what the future holds for them. If you can make a connection and show them how much of a difference they can make in society, it makes a huge impact.

Communities benefit. One in four of our young people aren’t graduating with their high school class. If we can keep kids in school and on track for college and careers, we will have the trained workforce we will need as a country to remain competitive in the global economy.

And, mentors benefit! You will get as much from interacting with young people as they will get from you.

Mentoring has provided me with an opportunity to learn about myself. When someone asks me how I got where I am today, it helps me to talk about my journey and realize how lucky I am.

It’s also helped me be a better leader.

If I do a good job at mentoring, sooner or later my students are mentoring me. I can go to them and say, “What’s this Facebook thing? I don’t get it.” They’ll giggle and explain it to me.

I urge everyone to give it a try. If not you, then who?

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