Monday, November 2, 2009

Michelle Obama: "Girl Power" Mentoring Program deemed Big Commitment

An item in the the Oregonian caught my eye this morning, and sent me to the internet to learn more about Mrs. Obama's plans to establish a mentoring program in the White House.

I am always interested to read about mentor programs, their goals, and the kids they target. Which brings me to something I learned. One of the questions I always have when writing about mentor programs is what to call the kids. Mentees is the most popular term ... but I kind of hate it ... its clunky. So, I am glad to learn that in this new White House based program, the kids are called 'proteges.' Now that's an elegant term.

I am going to follow the news for more info about this program, use this blog to share what I discover. So far, the most complete information I could find came from this article on the Chicago Tribune site, paraphrased below:

"First lady Michelle Obama -- and some of her Chicago "sisters" in the White House -- on Monday will launch a first-of-its-kind mentoring program with about 20 high school girls from greater Washington. ...

As the first anniversary of President Barack Obama's election nears, it's the first lady who is making history now. Call this chapter "Girl Power."

Observers say her leadership and mentoring initiative has not been done by a first lady before. It will see Mrs. Obama -- and White House staffers ... -- act as mentors to high school juniors and sophomores.

The proteges were chosen by high schools, the Girl Scouts and military families, including Gold Star families who have lost a loved one, said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, the first lady's spokeswoman.

A similar initiative for young men is coming later, she said.
The article states that the program is built on a March event at the White House in which high school girls had the opporunity to interact with the first lady, White House officials and a cast of celebrities including singers; actresses and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel into space.

To launch the program proteges will visit their mentors' offices and gather as a group for dinner. The inaugural class's duration has not been decided, but discussions of college, careers, and balancing work and motherhood are expected. The mentors want to give proteges a "window to a wide variety of different opportunities to play out your dreams."

Letitia Baldrige, who was a top aide to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, said the mentoring program was "definitely" a first for a presidential spouse. The mentors, she said, want to give proteges a "window to a wide variety of different opportunities to play out your dreams."
"This is not just a nice lecture or community gathering," she said. "Mentoring for their careers, gosh, that's a big commitment."

NOTE: I had to laugh at that last comment - if there is one truth to be said about effective mentoring, it is this ... Mentoring, whether mentees, proteges, or just plain kids, is a BIG COMMITMENT, and a meaningful one.

I hope this program is successful, gets lots of coverage ... and inspires lots more similar programs.