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Poverty & Equity Thought Leadership

Making an Impact Through Mentoring

With the onset of the new year, it’s a time of reflection, resolutions, and what we can do to better ourselves and our communities. Reflecting on how we can improve ourselves and the lives of others, it’s natural that January is National Mentoring Month. Beyond classes, webinars, tutorials, etc., mentors have an incredible impact on career and life development at all stages of life, whether one is just beginning higher education or starting a career or working on personal growth. Mentors champion mentees through the peaks, valleys and experiences involved with education, work and overall growth. 

As the adult clients of Families First navigate life’s challenges to get to a place of “thriving” versus “surviving,” having a mentor checking in and providing accountability for their next steps has an extraordinary impact on their success. By connecting clients with Partners in Change (PIC) trained volunteer coaches, Families First provides the additional resource of having a partner in their journey to success. 

PIC was created by Neil Shorthouse, a co-founder of Communities in Schools (CIS), the nation’s leading dropout prevention program, which is active in 25 states and engages with 1.6 million children, most of whom are living in poverty. Over the years, Neil realized that adults are critical for the transformation of economically-struggling communities and he sought to develop a program that would encourage their self-empowerment. In 2019, seeing the success that coaching brings to both executives and college students, Neil created PIC to level the playing field and make free coaching available to under-resourced adults. Through its mission, PIC pairs trained volunteer coaches with adults who are desiring to assert greater control over circumstances and challenges holding them back.

Programs and studies across the country have shown that 1-to-1 coaching/mentoring has a dramatic effect on the lives of those in under-resourced communities:

Partners in Change loves being a part of National Mentoring Month with Families First. The impact life coaching has on our volunteer coaches and our Members (people being coached) grows more practical and powerful in each of their weekly conversations. Members develop new skills, self-empower, and build renewed resilience. Both partners grow in respect and gratitude for each other and create powerful opportunities for each other’s ongoing transformation,” shared Shorthouse. 

PIC volunteers come from invaluable partner organizations including BlackRock, Georgia Natural Gas, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Temple, and University for Parents. Each week, as genuine and dedicated one-to-one partners, PIC Coaches connect with their Members who are making efforts to propel their lives forward in significant ways. The experience is meaningful for the coaches and the Members. Some coaches have shared experiences such as “Once she talks things through, you can almost see the light bulb go off in knowing what steps are necessary,” and “This is a challenging time for my Member. She is on the last stretch, and it will require determination and persistence to push towards her goals. I know she is up to the challenge.”

Members, including those from Families First, are working to achieve progress towards goals in a wide range of areas, including childcare and parenting skills, education, employment, finance, and personal development. Members have shared the impact of PIC coaching including “Before I was afraid of failure. Now, I know that I only fail if I never try to succeed,” and “I’m glad I’m in this program because it’s making me work harder to achieve my goals.” Having a coach or mentor along each part of the journey makes an incredible difference as one Member highlighted, “My Coach is the perfect accountability partner.”

“We honor the commitment and caring so evident in our trained volunteer life coaches. Many are driven by a deep desire to repay and honor those who were so supportive in their own lives. We are grateful for our coaches’ dedication, as they create transformational spaces for Atlanta’s under-resourced adults to self-empower, gain long-term life skills and resilience, and pursue new futures,” noted Shorthouse. 

“The Navigator Care Model at Families First is to provide the necessary resources for families so that all children can thrive. By collaborating with organizations such as Partners in Change, we’re able to give them even more resources to build a better foundation for their futures,” said Families First CEO DePriest Waddy. “Having a Coach or Mentor encourage individuals and champion them along each step on their paths is not only an incredible resource, but overwhelmingly increases their chances of success for them and their entire families.” 

While National Mentoring month may be drawing to a close, the long-lasting impacts that mentoring can have do not only affect individuals, but our community as a whole. As we encourage and lift up others as they strive to better themselves, we’re joining together to build an even better future for Atlantans. To become a trained PIC volunteer coach, or to apply to receive a coach, go to: picusa.org/get involved.


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