“MY PRIDE IN MY HOMETOWN AND COMMUNITY IS WHY I MENTOR”

By Jason Sosnovsky
SPECIAL FOR THE AJT

whether they are neighborhood associations, youth sports leagues, or religious groups. My pride in my hometown and my local communities is why I mentor with PAL.

But why do I focus on mentoring children over any other method of volunteering? I mentor because supporting the children in our local communities is, in my personal opinion, the most important objective that a community can undertake in order to strengthen itself for the future. Take me for example. When my family immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1989, the Jewish community was instrumental in getting us settled. The initial support that we received helped us with a strong start on life in a foreign place and, in turn, helped provide an easier transition for a little boy who spoke no English.

Now I’m back in Atlanta working as an attorney – a positive outcome of a Jewish community that supported me with youth groups, strong synagogues, and summer camps, and I’m mentoring because PAL gives me an opportunity to support children in Atlanta’s Jewish community.

PAL focuses on developing a positive social relationship between a young child and an adult, and our role as PAL mentors is to leverage fun activities and events to form a trusted bond with our Little Pals. My Little PAL and I connect most strongly over sports. In finding this area of common passion, we have developed a trusting friendship, which in mentoring is the jumping-off point for helping a child feel comfortable sharing his thoughts with an adult and helping a mentor develop skills in that child.

One of the skills that I focus on in my mentoring is my Little PAL’s willingness to open up socially. My Little PAL is naturally a quiet guy – making him almost a polar opposite of my own chatty and loud personality. However, over the last year, from our interactions and time spent together, I know that while he may be quiet, he’s thinking and has a lot to say. As we’ve developed our trust, my Little Pal has opened up to me, and we’ve talked about school, summer camps, and his sports teams. My hope is that my presence and my friendship are making him more comfortable with the introduction of new people in his life.

While I hope that I am providing some sort of development in my Little PAL, I know that he is providing me with a real chance to learn and grow. This reciprocal learning opportunity is one of the most exciting parts about mentoring. Mentoring is truly a two-way street in which both parties get something valuable out of the experience. The greatest lesson that I have learned from my Little PAL is that connecting with new people takes a different amount of time and a different amount of energy for each unique relationship. I know that I didn’t begin mentoring with the intention of learning, but that is my naïveté shining through, because, as is more often true than not, any experience in life can be a learning one.

So, what are you waiting for? Maybe you don’t know if you’d be a good mentor, which is a very fair worry. Mentoring is a one-on-one experience that takes energy, creativity, and care, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. But, I believe that most of us can be good mentors for some specific group. Whatever setting it is, I expect that you are proud of some community – big or small – of which you are a part. It is our inherent nature to support our local communities, and I encourage you to support yours by mentoring. You’ll learn that you have it in you to be a good mentor. You’ll learn that you have good advice to share. And, just as valuable, you’ll learn that there’s always something that you can learn.

Jason Sosnovsky is an attorney in the Real Estate Practice Group at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP. He has been a Big Pal since December 2012.

PAL is a program of the Child & Adolescent Services – Tools for Families division. For more, visit www.ytfl.org/pal.