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Winning Futures: What it means to be a mentor

Benny (left) and Adib (right) play a card game as part of their Winning Futures session (photo taken pre-pandemic).

Read Part I of this series: Virtual mentorship program enables long-term success for high school students

Read Part III of this series: Mentorship program enables success for Adib

All his life, Benny Vann has been looking out for people. From tutoring classmates to helping junior employees navigate their careers, Benny has been coaching and mentoring for as long as he can remember. It is inherent of his identity – to help others.

Benny’s career began in the automotive industry in 1985 after graduating from Wayne State University with a degree in electrical engineering; he later received his MBA from University of Detroit Mercy. He got married and had two daughters, both who have embarked upon careers of their own. Along his journey, he picked up a few life lessons.

In 2018, when Benny was approached by a colleague who encouraged him to get involved as a mentor with Winning Futures, he did not hesitate.

“I’m a good listener, problem solver, and motivated by helping others,” said Benny. “It seemed like a natural fit to help underserved kids find their way in school and life and help them create a successful and fulfilling future.”

After a couple of years mentoring a group of students and building relationships with his mentees, he could see the kids evolving, growing, and getting more excited about their successes. One student, Adib, he really clicked with and now mentors in a one-on-one model.

“Adib is a shy kid, but brilliant and very studious. He is a strategic thinker, always thinking about what is next. He has just needed help coming out of his shell and developing goals. I can tell through this process he has grown in confidence. I am very proud of him and it makes me feel encouraged and confident about my skills as a mentor.

Benny credits the Winning Futures model for helping them both flourish as mentor and mentee, outlining a process that supports success. From addressing attitude, to creating a vision for the future, to goal setting and execution, the format helps Adib to look forward with a broad lens and enables Benny to guide him in doing so.

The pair meet virtually once a month via Winning Futures; the organization transitioned to the virtual format due to the pandemic which was enabled by a $50,000 grant from The Children’s Foundation. Between sessions they keep in touch through text messaging and email to share challenges and highlights in their lives.

“My job is demanding, life is demanding” Benny said. “It is easy to get burned out, but I get energy just thinking about my involvement in Winning Futures and relationship with Adib. There are many people who have mentored with Winning Futures for many years, and I can understand why. Winning Futures trains us and supports us, enabling success for all involved.”

Winning Futures is recruiting virtual mentors for the 2021-22 school year. Virtual mentoring is safe, fun, and impactful. Apply today

Help us improve the health and wellness of more children and families.

You can help us reach more children and families by making a gift to The Children’s Foundation. Click here to make your gift.

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