If you have completed an NMRC project lately, you have likely benefited from the wealth of knowledge Carolyn Scherer, MPM’s Director of Program Services, brings on the topic of quality mentoring practices. This Staff Spotlight gets to know our newest staff member here at MPM: her work, her inspirations, and what she sees next for the field.
Carolyn directs our Program Services department – that means any of the initiatives we do that directly work with and benefit mentoring programs across the state, including QMAP, training, and consultation. She loves working directly with programs and getting to witness to wide array of approaches and unique kinds of impact different organizations have on their communities. Looking forward, she is excited to create and provide even more innovative types of education, support, networking opportunities, and resources to Minnesota mentoring programs.
A social worker by trade, Carolyn has been most interested in her career in preventative interventions that have a positive impact on young people. This led her to seven years with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities as Director of Customer Engagement. At BBBS, mentoring seemed like a casual concept initially, but she quickly learned that quality made an enormous difference in outcomes. There were numerous best practices within every component of the work. Learning, implementing, and now coaching on these best practices has been the cornerstone of her career in mentoring. She continually impresses upon me the need to remember quality over quantity – in her experience creating well supported, thoughtful matches over pairing together as many adults and youth as possible has the highest positive returns for mentees, mentors, and communities.
However, she also sees best practices as an area of challenge and growth for the field. How do we find the balance between implementing best practices and not getting so entrenched in procedures that we don’t see the bigger picture? How do we enact quality practices with limited staffing and resources? This is not to say she feels negative about the future. She has been continually inspired by the many programs doing amazing work on behalf of kids and the stream of innovation in the field – researchers and practitioners continually innovate to better meet the needs of young people. Especially exciting to her is the expanding conversation about incorporating youth voice into mentoring in a variety of ways.
Mentoring can take place in many forms and she also hopes to continue to spread the conversation and knowledge of informal mentoring. Volunteering at a mentoring program isn’t for everyone or isn’t always right based on what else is going on in a volunteer’s life. Carolyn herself has two young children and doesn’t have the capacity currently to be a formal mentor, but instead looks for ways to make a positive impact on youth in the community in more informal ways. We should all be spreading the message about the powerful positive affects mentoring a child can have on young people and mentors themselves, no matter the setting.
When she isn’t at MPM, Carolyn loves spending time with her two kids and husband, especially outside. She enjoys running, cooking, arts and crafts, and working on the house. Next time you see her make sure to say hello!