Mayor’s Monthly Column: How Mentorship Can Transform a City

Every mentorship relationship is a story.

A story of a young entrepreneur facing fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt in starting their business.

A story of an immigrant family—thanks to the help of a mentor family—that is able to slowly adjust to life in their new community.

A story of a child in school finding confidence and a renewed focus on their schoolwork—thanks to the support and encouragement of their mentor.

Success stories like these—and there are hundreds of them in our city—show the power and value of mentorship and how these relationships can transform a community.

Mayor Paul TenHaken with Kids

January is National Mentorship Month and provides an opportune time to reflect on not only the power of mentorship in our community, but also the need for increased mentorship in Sioux Falls. As we remember Martin Luther King Jr. this week, we are reminded of the importance of service and giving back to our community.

Since we launched the Sioux 52 Mentorship Initiative one year ago alongside the Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls, we have seen our community step forward and make a renewed commitment to mentorship.

In 2020, more than 250 individuals signed up to mentor, 30 businesses signed on to be business partners and create a culture of mentoring, and 27 organizations that administer mentoring programs joined Sioux 52.

While this is a great start, we have much work to do to continue closing the gap on mentoring in the Sioux Falls area. The future of our community depends on it.

A year ago, the need for increased mentorship in our community was already apparent. In January 2020, more than 1,000 youth in the community were identified as in need of mentors through a Downtown Rotary-commissioned report by Augustana Research Institute. Other mentorship programs across the community for adults, felons, seniors, and families need support as well. The realities of the pandemic have caused that need to grow even more.

Events of the past year—from social justice concerns to the pandemic—have only underscored the important role that mentorship plays in our community. And while COVID has made face-to-face mentoring relationships challenging, relationship building and the need to invest in others is more important than ever.

The vision that I outlined last January at the kickoff to Sioux 52 was charging employers in the Sioux Falls area to motivate their employees to give an hour each week—52 hours a year—to individuals in need of mentorship. We are seeing employers make that commitment and create opportunities for their employees to mentor locally.

At the City of Sioux Falls, we are modeling the way by offering Volunteer Time Off to employees and encouraging employees across City departments to give back to their community, including through mentoring. We’re also starting an internal mentorship program, The Path, to allow City employees to learn from their colleagues and create cross-departmental relationships.

The answers to the biggest, most pressing issues in our communities lie in our people. After all, what is a city without the people? I challenge you to commit to a mentorship relationship in 2021. Be intentional about seeking a relationship with someone, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Seek to create change in your community through the investment of time in another person. Let’s become the “City of Mentors” as we write the next chapter in the history of our city. It’s our strongest path forward as One Sioux Falls. 

Share This