Mentoring has positive effects on young people with disabilities. Mentors are leaders and role models who increase mentees confidence, connection to community, and sense of purpose.
Yet, the relationship is not one way. Mentors often benefit as much the mentee, learning about themselves and the skills and abilities of people with disabilities.
Chris Barbie has been a mentor to PYD participant Anthony for nine months. His interest in mentoring grew from his passion for training and working with a diverse group of people. “In all my jobs, I’ve done a lot of training,” Chris said. “I really enjoy the process of training people and I thought I could get a deeper experience of that in a mentoring relationship. With my mentee, every time we hang out it’s like a mini version of that.”
Chris began mentoring during the pandemic, but that did not deter him from creating a strong connection with Anthony. The pair bonded quickly through a shared passion for music. Anthony was a featured performer at the Party for PYD gala in May and created an original piece of electronic music, with input and support from Chris. Recently, Anthony and Chris collaborated with a rapper friend of Chris who added lyrics to one of Anthony’s musical tracks.
Common interest is what Chris believes can break down barriers of individual ableism and stigmatization. “Finding people who share your passions is huge in letting your passions together dissolved the assumed perceptions about disability,” he said. “Let that shared joy be the thing that breaks the barriers that are there.”
The mentoring relationship has benefited Chris as much as Anthony. “Mentoring has helped me grow in ways I didn’t even know I wasn’t growing,” Chris said. “It has given me tools on how to set goals for myself while helping my mentee make their own goals. I feel like he has taught me more than I have taught him. I just like to sit back and listen to all he has to say.”
Mentoring is the foundation of PYD’s mission and programming. Our one-to-one mentoring program provides individualized connection and guidance to support young people with disabilities in reaching their full potential for personal development and independence. Group mentoring – delivered through career readiness, theater arts, and leadership programming – empowers youth with communication and leadership skills, self-advocacy skills, and lasting professional and personal friendships. The result is youth with disabilities living independent lives filled with dignity and pride. Learn more about PYD Mentoring.
Kellianne Doyle, AmeriCorp Ambassador of Mentoring, contributed to this article.