Guest post by Dr. Gail D. Brady, principal, Sugarland Elementary School Editor’s Note: January is National Mentoring Month! To celebrate, we’ve partnered with Cricket Media to share stories about the positive impact mentoring — especially eMentoring — can have on young people’s lives. Along with my eight brothers and sisters, I grew up in a family where both parents worked and there was no time for them to read to us. We were poor, but didn’t really know it. It wasn’t until we saw what other students had that we realized what we did not have. Now, serving as a leader in a Title I school — schools with a large, low-income student population — I have sat in the very seats where my students now sit. More often than not, my students’ parents have to work, so there is little to no time to sit and read with their children. And as it is for them now, it was for me: teachers made a difference in my life.They were the difference between just going to school and being successful in school. Because of my teacher mentors, I not only went to college, but I graduated with four degrees, my most current being a doctorate in education. Wow, how powerful — and all because an adult took the time to invest in my learning! Last year, we partnered with the e-mentoring platform CricketTogether. Because of this, our students are afforded the same opportunities I had to have adults mentor and invest in their lives! Fortunately, our school already prioritized reading — students read to teachers and to one another. When CricketTogether came along last year, they presented an out-of-the-box scenario that encompassed one of our goals of connecting students to the real world. At first, students didn’t know what to expect, but once they started interacting with their mentor, they were sold — hook, line, and sinker! We also strive to show our students how learning is relevant to their personal lives and communities. So, partnering students with volunteer mentors (in the “real world”), show them how learning has a lifelong impact. It also shows them how relationships matter in the journey of learning. Real people, connected in real life, to real learning opportunities. Having CricketTogether in one 5th grade classroom last year helped in our effort to embrace a culture of reading. Those students became lovers of books. So we jumped at the opportunity this year to have them in all 5th grade classes. For people considering volunteering as a mentor, I say, “Jump in with both feet!” There are children awaiting your knowledge, wisdom, and connection to the real world. It will be the best investment of your lives, that will yield the highest return! It will provide you an opportunity to not just touch their lives, but their souls. As Nike’s slogan says, “Just do it!” You have nothing to lose, and all to gain! Inspired by Dr. Brady’s story? This National Mentoring Month, become an eMentor yourself! Check out CricketTogether or these mentoring volunteer opportunities to learn how you or your company can get involved. ___ About the Author: After several years of teaching, Dr. Brady obtained her Master’s in School Administration, served as an assistant principal for two years, and six years as a principal. In her quest to learn more about leadership, she obtained an advanced Master’s in Superintendency. She has recently completed her doctorate in education, in the spring of 2016.