the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Background on the President's Event in Honor of National Mentoring Month

This afternoon, President Obama will celebrate National Mentoring Month by welcoming a group of new mentees into the White House mentoring program, a year-long program that pairs young men and women from area high schools with White House staffer mentors.  The young men enrolling in the program tomorrow will join the young women who were paired with their White House mentors at an event with the First Lady in early November as part of the White House Mentorship Program.  Through the White House Mentorship Program, these young men and women will participate each month in workshops designed to encourage them to maximize educational opportunities, serve their communities or introduce them to potential careers.  The program also aims to increase each student’s knowledge of the structure of the federal government and introduce them to various leaders and their respective work, and it seeks to expose the students to artistic, cultural, or recreational opportunities in the Washington, DC area.  White House staffers have volunteered to serve as mentors and the students participating were nominated by their schools. 

The event will be attended by the young men in the White House Mentorship Program as well as mentors and mentees from mentoring programs across the country, including Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Latin American Youth Center, Journey 4-H Youth Mentoring, Asian Professional Extension, Inc. and many more.

In his remarks, the President will address the critical importance of mentoring and the impact that a caring, responsible adult can have on the life of a child.  He will also emphasize the great need for mentors in communities around the country and highlight the work that corporations, non-profits and government are doing to launch and expand mentoring programs across the country.

The audience will include heads of mentoring programs from across the country; mentor/mentee matches from across the country; corporate sponsors of mentoring program; and the young men and mentors in the White House Men/Boys Mentoring Program. Members of Congress expected to attend include Representative Susan Davis (D-CA), Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI), and Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI).

The First Lady will deliver remarks and introduce Anthony Saldana of Austan, Texas (“Big/Little Brother of the Year”). Anthony will introduce the President.

Big Brother Ben De Leon and Little Brother Anthony Saldana
When Austin attorney Ben De Leon met a second grader for a short-term mentoring program through his church three years ago, he discovered that then 7-year-old Anthony had been waiting to be matched with a Big Brother.  Impressed with how well they interacted, Anthony’s grandmother put De Leon in contact with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.  She wanted to make the friendship official and ensure the mentoring relationship had the necessary support that would make it last.

“Ben has been a reliable, trusted and exciting addition to Anthony’s life. They get together several times a month and enjoy visiting book stores, attending sports events, spending time at the lake, and various other activities,” said Jeni Findley, Senior Match Support Specialist at the Central Texas agency. 

Anthony lives with his grandmother and grandfather, who suffers from arthritis and is unable to enjoy many physical activities with the youngster.  He says with his Big Brother, he’s able to share sports activities, have someone to help him with homework and have a trusted adult to talk to about anything.  Working with his match support specialist, De Leon makes sure Anthony’s family has resources to give his Little Brother every opportunity to succeed. 

“I am hopeful that I can continue to advance the organization’s mission of getting more mentors, African-American and Hispanic males in particular to step up and make a difference to so many deserving, at-risk youth who can benefit in so many ways from Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said De Leon, who also supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas financially. 

Additional background on the White House Mentorship Program launched by the First Lady in early November:

Since the First Lady launched the program, the First Lady’s office has held two monthly activities (December included a panel of staff giving a behind-the-scenes perspective on the planning and implementation for successful events at the White House, followed by a special holiday décor tour; January has included a community service activity packing bags of food that will be delivered to children who do not have enough food on the weekends and a career preparation skills workshop), and included the mentees in the State Dinner Press Preview in which they learned about the history of and protocol for State dinners.

Additionally, eight mentees to-date have been invited to accompany the First Lady to public events to get a better understanding of her work. Over the course of the program, the First Lady’s office will ensure that all the mentees have an opportunity to engage with her on a one-on-one basis. Lastly, several of the mentors have connected with their mentees outside of the monthly activities by keeping in touch via e-mail and having additional meetings.