National Mentoring Month 2023



January is National Mentoring Month, a time to strengthen our commitment to centering joy for Black and Brown youth through mentoring. Join YMC this National Mentoring Month and advocate for mentorship, legislative action, and awareness for how youth mentoring changes lives.

The History of National Mentoring Month

  • National Mentoring Month is a campaign run throughout January by mentoring and youth-serving organizations across the country.
  • MENTOR and MENTOR Affiliates began National Mentoring Month in 2002, the campaign aims to unify and expand the mentoring movement, celebrate the power of relationships, and raise awareness about the importance of youth mentoring in the United States.
  • National Mentoring Month is supported by elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels, and by several U.S. Presidents and their administrations. You can read the Biden Administration's Proclamation of National Mentoring Month 2022 here.

Steps You Can Take During National Mentoring Month:

  1. Advocate. An easy way to advocate during National Mentoring Month is to submit a proclamation to an elected official in your city, county, or state. Learn how to submit a proclamation on our Advocacy page.
  2. Learn how to be a mentor. Help strengthen the mentoring movement by becoming a mentor, or supporting mentoring and youth-serving agencies near you. You can access our resources on How to Become a Mentor or learn other ways to support youth-development organizations in your community.
  3. Donate. If you don't have the capacity to advocate or become a mentor, you can always support organizations financially. Make a one-time or recurring donation to the Youth Mentoring Collaborative to support our mission.


2022 Mentor of the Year Finalists

Each year at our Annual Champions of Mentoring Awards Ceremony & Reception, one person whose accomplishments, support, and commitment to youth mentoring are such that they will receive the Mentor of the Year award. Nominees are nominated by their mentees, folks in the community, and those within their programs who believe this person exemplifies the best of mentoring.



From left to right: Finalist Freddie McNeil, Winner Tyson Ashe, Finalist Derek Rhodes

2022 Mentor of the Year Award Winner Tyson Ashe

Teacher with Wake County Public Schools; Mentoring Chairman of the 100 Black Men of the Triangle

"Mr. Ashe is beyond committed to bettering the lives of young men of color. At a time when many teachers are leaving the classroom, Mr. Ashe is committed to remaining in the classroom for the sole purpose of ensuring that students have the opportunity to see a Black male [in the classroom]. Mr. Ashe is an Occupational Course of Study teacher in Heritage High School's Special Education Department. As we all know, males of color are overrepresented in Special Education. Fortunately for young men at Heritage High School, Mr. Ashe is there to knock down barriers and build his students up. He is a picture of what is possible! The relationships he builds with the young men in his care have benefited not just Mr. Ashe, but those around him.

Mr. Ashe lives out the Youth Mentoring Collaborative Mission that mentoring is a healthy partnership between youth and adults to disrupt the status quo. Each mentoring relationship looks different for Mr. Ashe depending on student's interest and experience. He never places himself in the position of a savior. Instead, he views his mentees as individuals with individual needs. He aspires to help his mentees create a network of individuals who will help to create a pathway to success as the mentee has defined it."

-Ashe's Nominator


Finalist Freddie McNeil

Founder and Executive Director at SIDEKICKS Academy, Inc.

"Former Durham Public Schools (DPS) executive Freddie McNeil, has not only recently become a close personal mentor of mine, but has demonstrated a commitment to mentorship that stretches across decades and multiple counties in North Carolina. Mr. McNeil is most deserving of recognition for his mentoring efforts and accomplishments, largely because he is so quick to deflect praise and turn that conversation toward "his kids." Mr. McNeil, now retired from his leadership position at DPS, operates SIDEKICKS Academy, Inc. in three Durham public elementary schools. SIDEKICKS, for short, is a Taekwondo-centered character education program that prioritizes scholastic and casual mentorship, mental health support, and social justice teaching for 3rd-5th graders of color (over 100). Some of Mr. McNeil's accomplishments, as the humble leader of SIDEKICKS, include overwhelmingly reducing the suspension rates of SIDEKICKS students, increasing their academic achievement, and improving students' classroom behaviors of respect, self-confidence, and defense of peers. Mr. McNeil has spearheaded all of these wins through collaboration with SIDEKICKS' partner school principals, who, like Mr. McNeil, are committed to shifting students away from the school-to-prison pipeline and toward pipelines of success. Mr. McNeil also prioritizes mentoring each of "his kids" holistically, meaning he includes students' families in their growth and healing journey by communicating often and directly with them about students' challenges and moments of perseverance.

Mr. McNeil's impact on young people is immediately evident upon asking him to share some of his "favorite SIDEKICKS stories," but, more personally, Mr. McNeil is unafraid of those written off by society's systems, confident in his ability to pinpoint commonality between himself and his mentees, and is changing the lives of some of Durham's most-marginalized residents."

-McNeil's Nominator


Finalist Derek Rhodes

Founder and Executive Director at the Durham Success Summit

"My nominee, Derek Rhodes, is well qualified for the 2022 Champions of Mentoring award for numerous reasons. Rhodes is responsible for founding the Durham Success Summit; this program helps young black men between 16 and 24 in Durham achieve professional clarity, articulation, and networking fluency. Since 2019, the Durham Success Summit has served over 150 men of color, provided over 300 hours of free coaching and support, and engaged a national network of over 100 committed speakers, mentors, and coaches. Through DSS, Derek has also helped 94% of the young black men who went through the DSS program have a clearer outlook on life and career goals. As a result, he has given 100% of the young black men actionable tools that they could implement in their lives, and 76% of the young black men said that they would return for another year.

Derek Rhodes is well qualified for this award in part due to his significant impact on the Obama foundation. During his time with the Obama Foundation, he oversaw the distribution of over one million dollars in grant funding to non-profit organizations and designed the initiative’s first long-term strategic planning process.

Along with founding a non-profit and leading one of the largest youth development initiatives in history, Derek Rhodes was recognized as one of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 under 40 business leaders. Additionally, Mr. Rhodes is known for being a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, providing strategic tools necessary for young professionals or new leaders to get ahead in their careers. His inspiring words have reached groups around the world including the American School in London, Chicago Public Schools, and the National Network of Schools in Partnership. Moreover, Derek has the privilege of holding a City Council-appointed seat on the City of Durham’s Racial Equity Commission and proudly serves on Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy Board of Visitors and Duke University’s Black Alumni Board. Furthermore, Derek also authored a book titled “Jimmy in the City” published in 2016, and another book titled “Post Traumatic Success Disorder” expected to publish in mid-2023."

-Rhodes' Nominator

Mentor of the Year WINNER_Twitter
Remarks on YMC & National Mentoring Month

The Honorable Howard N. Lee

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Durham City Council's Proclamation of

National Mentoring Month

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