We often hear the term “role model” used in today’s society. Role models range in profession, from super athletes to hometown heroes to entertainers and authors. They inspire individuals to reach for their dreams and complete the extraordinary. Of course, the context of extraordinary varies for everyone and dreams can vary from running a half marathon to winning a Grammy award.
However, for a person to be a role model, they don’t need to know the individual they are impacting. Most people may never meet their role model. For example, mine happens to be Oprah Winfrey (if you’re reading this, Oprah, I’d love to grab coffee).
For this reason, I have a new term to describe a segment of the “influential” population that participates in impacting the lives of others. I categorize these individuals, myself included, as “Grow” models. You see, we volunteer our time, we mentor in our community, and we benefit from seeing our impact as those we mentor grow up, mature and move forward.
As a “Grow model”, we cultivate our youth; we work alongside them for a consecutive period. We encourage them to follow their bliss, and pursue their passions while being studious, responsible and thinking about the future. Grow models are not afraid to admit our own flaws or fears either. In order to really make an impact, children have to see the human in us.
Sometimes it’s not even a flaw that we need to share. In my particular case, I was mentoring a young woman who came from an underserved community in downtown LA. Fortunately, the high school she attended partnered with Step Up Women’s Network, which pairs underserved teens with professional women to work on career and college prep. So here I was, back to filling in college applications and talking SAT scores.
My mentee was nervous that her grades wouldn’t be acceptable for a state school. This was a child whose responsibilities included being a caretaker for two younger children and helping out around the house, and her grandmother was her guardian – not your average high school student’s circumstances!
Unbeknownst to her, I hadn’t gone to state school right after graduation. I attended junior college, then actually transferred to a private university. In sharing this information and explaining that I turned out just as educated and successful as those who went to a four-year school, she felt more comfortable with her path. I am happy to say she graduated high school, was admitted to junior college and has advised me that she will become a social worker.
So, how can you become a Grow Model? Research volunteer opportunities in your local area then get involved. Volunteer to share your skill set and knowledge or if your time is limited, make a donation. Non-profit programs are dependent upon outside funds to maintain their programs.
All in all, being a “Grow” model is worth it – the impact you create will be long lasting and benefit future generations as well.