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Mentoring in Maine

Mentoring in Maine

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media, October 2010

One of the best aspects of belonging to CAI is the access to knowledgeable peers in a unique industry. Often, mentoring relationships develop from the networking opportunities that present themselves. It is this form ofcontinuing education using a trickle-down method to pass information in a non-institutional way that I would like to discuss.
Property managers and other professionals interacting with condominium boards have been using mentoring skills for years, but probably don't use that term in considering the services they provide. Property managers' experience and knowledge of condo documents, state law and standard business practices consistently keep board members on the right track.
Mentoring has been around for a long time. It is a time-honored tradition of one generation passing hard-earned wisdom to the next generation. Recently, I have observed that Maine, and other parts of the country, are using this educational delivery method in a more organized and formal way along specific professional lines. For a moment, I would like to depart the world of condominiums and consider how the mentoring skills of property managers, engineers and financial service providers might benefit the entire community.

Like-Minded Groups

We all can remember the teacher, friend or relative who took a special interest in our future and provided important advice at critical crossroads in our lives. That experience probably left you a feeling of wishing to provide a similar experience to some young mind, but finding the opportunity or right person to share your insight is a challenge. To meet this need, Maine organizations are forming to provide this avenue for you to give back to the community in the form of mentoring.
These organizations sometimes are formed along specific professions or around an educational institution. As an example, my interest is in engineering. This past year, I became a founding board member of the national ACE Mentoring Program and helped establish the first chapter in southern Maine. ACE is an acronym for Architecture, Construction and Engineering. This program reaches out to high school students interested in these fields who want to learn more before making their college choices.
These mentoring opportunities can be found throughout Maine; other examples include: Escapade Mentors through Cape Elizabeth's school department, the Kittery School Mentors or the Thornton Academy Mentoring Program in Saco. They also can be found in organizations in which you may already be a member, such as the Rotary Club or Kiwanis.

Real-Life Results

As an example, late last year, I called Portland High School's guidance office and was referred to its Portland Mentoring Alliance. I told them of my interest in mentoring a student expressing interest in the engineering field. Witltin weeks, I was put in touch with an honor student who wanted to enter an engineering school but who didn't know how to go about it. His obstacle: he had spent three years in a Congolese refugee camp and had no money. His asset: his intelligence and ambition.
I was impressed by this young man and asked if I could help him. His plan was to apply to a local community vocational school with the hope to someday attend an engineering program at one of the state's schools. After hearing what he went through to get where he was, I told him we could do better. To make a long story short) a few months later, he received a full scholarship to Colby College at which he enrolled last month. In addition, he will be earning a dual degree in engineering through Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering during his concurrent five-year program.
I am relaying this story to illustrate what anyone of us can do, if we take that first step to try and guide the next generation. Not all mentees need help with college. Some need an adult's wisdom on matters of social, cultural or personal issues. So, before you say "how can I guide a teenager on anything!" consider your work day. Are you solving problems, defusing board member personality conflicts, investigating legal issues and keeping board meetings from unraveling? Then, a teenager should be a snap.
We all have little room on our calendars, family obligations and other civic duties. What I am suggesting is for us to remember our own mentors who had their own scheduling challenges yet found time to spare a word of guidance for us. When we look out at an ever-more confusing and scary world in which we seem to have little control and no hope to change, perhaps all we can do is help one mentee at a time.