Fulfill Your New Years Resolution in an Hour a Week

Be a CAP Mentor

Wednesday Dec. 31st, 2014

If you’re anything like me, despite your most steadfast convictions, you have already begun to bend the rules on your new year’s resolution. You know what I mean; on Thursday morning you firmly declared that this year you would ‘start eating healthy’, but then you gave yourself ‘til the weekend to get started, because, you know, you’ve got to plan these kinds of things, right? And then it was Saturday and your friends twisted your arm enough for you to go to the Storm Castle Cafe for biscuits and gravy, and so you postponed your quest for fitness until Monday...And so on, it happens every year.

Maybe what you need this time around is a little resolution makeover, something a bit more magnanimous than, say, striving for a beach body? Good news. Sometimes the best commitments are those that need you as much as you need them. So, may I suggest an easy, fun, and downright altruistic alternative to your wobbly new year’s resolution this year?: become a CAP mentor with Thrive. Your community will thank you.

CAP, or the Child Advancement Project, is a school-based mentoring program that for 26 years has been matching community volunteers with students in the Bozeman public schools who need a little extra support. In just an hour a week, you can help a child discover and build on their skills, gain self-esteem, and reach their potential. Results have shown that students who participate have better attendance, feel more connected to their school community, and have fewer behavioral incidents. Studies also show that children who have just one adult in their life that believes in them are more than 5 times more likely to graduate high school! Be that one person for a student and you give back to Bozeman ten-fold. Can your Isagenix shake do that?  

But before you go speculating that mentoring is a purely unselfish thing, think again. CAP mentors often report that the time they spend with their student is the best hour of their week. Dean Wakerlin, local musician and owner of Dean’s Zesty Booch, now in his third year as a CAP mentor, says that he could not be more in sync with his mentee. His student reports having been skeptical about the program at first, but now that he and Dean have been matched he loves the program so much that he has even become an ambassador for new students at the high school. The two have so much fun together playing music, hanging out at Wendys, and spending time exasperating their CAP coordinator.

The benefits of mentoring are not limited to mere warm-fuzzies. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, “evidence indicates that volunteering has a positive effect on...a personal sense of purpose and accomplishment, and enhances a person’s social networks to buffer stress and reduce disease risk.” Being a part of a movement is one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteerism, making you feel connected and even vital to your hometown. Many mentors have even changed their career path towards an education or social welfare focus after experiencing the power of CAP mentoring. When you become a CAP mentor, you join a community of over 600 positive, community-minded locals that are invested in Bozeman’s future.

As it turns out all of that stress reduction and oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the feel-good “helping high” you get from volunteering, has a cumulative effect on your health in the long run. A recent study featured in Prevention magazine suggests that: “Even after adjusting for several factors, including previous health complications...rates of mortality dropped 24% among those who volunteered regularly.” According to the Huffington Post article “19 Healthy Reasons to Help Others”, the stress reduction courtesy of volunteerism is even beneficial for your heart. High levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone” are a good predictor of cardiovascular problems down the road. By engaging in altruistic activities, you essentially block the body’s exposure to cortisol via good-vibes oxytocin, thereby promoting health and well-being. The article sums it up well: “Getting away from yourself, reaching out and contributing to the lives of others, especially in hard times when people are anxious about economic conditions, is a very healthy thing.”

 All the same, you may be thinking that an hour a week could be tough to squeeze in the gaps of your workday grind, but when you consider that the average American spends three hours a day on social media, and over 21 hours a week watching television, there is probably more free time in your schedule than you think. Thankfully Thrive provides resources for volunteers to make meeting with their student between work, school, and other commitments as seamless as possible. Each school has a CAP coordinator who juggles the schedules of their volunteers and provides resources for mentors to make sure that they are getting the most out of their CAP match. Whether you are a busy professional, a college student, or a retiree, CAP coordinators strive to find a match for each volunteer that compliments their life experiences and works with their schedule.

Calvin Coolidge once said, “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” This year, if you are looking for a resolution that will truly change the course of your life, your answer is simple: become a CAP mentor, and you will get much more than you give in just an hour a week. Everyone has the ability to be a wonderful mentor and it’s easy to apply. Join a network of hundreds of volunteers locally who care about our community. January is National Mentoring Month. Go to www.allthrive.org and jump start your new year’s resolution today.    

Lauren Scull is the Thrive CAP Coordinator at Bozeman High School.