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Local D.C. Organization Talks Importance of Mentorship During National Mentoring Month

Youth Leadership Foundation (YLF) has fostered meaningful mentorship relationships with D.C.’s young people since the 1970s.

Mentors and mentees cautiously walk during a game of musical chairs at a YLF Drop-in Mentorship Day held at St. Anthony School on Jan. 27, 2024. (The Hilltop/Keith Golden Jr.)

Besides being known as the first 31 days of the year, January is also National Mentoring Month. 

The initiative began in 2001 by the Harvard Mentoring Project and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Since then, the month has been recognized by presidents and celebrated across the country as a “booster-shot” to mentorship programs everywhere. 

Youth Leadership Foundation (YLF) is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., founded by the first African American tenured professor at American University. Professor Edward Smith started the beginnings of YLF’s mentorship programs in the 1970s and has served more than “4,000 youths” since then, according to Executive Director Janaiha Bennett.

Bennett has worked with the District’s young people for 18 years but says adolescents in the city should not be treated as a monolith.

“I’m not dealing with youth,” she said. “I’m dealing with a particular person.”

In honor of the last day of National Mentoring Month, The Hilltop talked to mentors and parents about how mentorship has impacted their lives and the lives of their children.

Video by Juan Benn Jr. & Keith Golden Jr.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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