The Power of One Person

“The single most important thing that children need to grow into healthy adults is the presence of one person who is irrationally attached to them.” (Darling, 2005, p. 185)

Often times when we think about February, the first thing that pops into our heads is Valentine’s Day; a day of love. Mentoring programs are successful when the mentor is able to develop a relationship with a mentee and demonstrate that unconditional love, that understanding that the mentor’s purpose in the mentee’s life is to help them be successful, wanting nothing in return.

One of the core components of Check & Connect is a mentor who makes a long-term (minimum two-year) commitment to students, as it can take several months to develop a relationship with students to where they feel that level of support and caring.

Screen shot of videotaped interview with Mr. James Anderson speaking.We wanted to share an excerpt of a 2014 Mentoring Summit panel discussion, Mentoring’s Role in Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline (video), whereby James Anderson, a former mentee (although not in a Check & Connect program) and incarcerated youth, shares about the importance of persisting as a mentor in the mentor-mentee relationship:

Everyone would point at me and say, “Forget about him. He’s a lost cause,” except one person decided… I was worth something and was able to touch my heart, this hard core gang member. All I needed was for someone to tell me they loved me and actually show it. Because of that I was able to transform myself and make this great change in my life. …

The key role here [as mentors] is to stick it out. It’s not always [about] being super involved. Sometimes you have to back away and let someone bump their heads a couple of times, because at the end of the day you are not responsible. They have to make their own decisions, because only someone that wants to change is going to change.

But the fact that…this person stuck around for 18 months…. The first three to four months, I was thinking, “When are you going to leave?” The fifth and sixth months I’m thinking, “You’re showing pity, you pity me, you don’t care about me.” By the eighteenth month I’m like, “This person loves me, because I have nothing to offer them and they have shown they are not trying to use me.” So stick in their lives through thick and thin.

Excerpted at around 17 minutes 40 seconds, however the entire session is worth watching! James Anderson is now a mentor and activist with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. Also, FYI Check & Connect is used with incarcerated youth, such as with the project, Making a Map: Finding My Way Back.

Mr. Anderson’s message is powerful. Students who are disengaged and at-high-risk for dropping out of school need that person, that mentor, to help them reengage; to be the person who speaks up and says, “You are not a lost cause;” and to be the person who takes the time, energy, and enthusiasm to prove to students that they are there for the long run. We encourage you to be that person!

Care to Share?

In what ways have you (or your mentors) been successful in making these bonds with students? What tools or strategies have you/they used to show students that you/they are “in their corner”?

(If you do share in the comments section, please do not include any personally identifying information.) 


Darling, N. (2005). Mentoring adolescents. In D. L. Dubois and M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 177–190). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

About the Author: Jana Hallas, M.Ed., is a project coordinator and member of the Check & Connect training team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.

©2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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