As president-elect, Barack Obama announced support for the National Mentoring Month and issued a call for all Americans to commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday by committing to a national day of service.

Jan. 22 was National Thank Your Mentor Day. The holiday, the week and the month is meant to launch the start of a commitment to volunteer or give of ourselves on an ongoing basis.

Likewise, Michelle Obama urged Americans to consider mentoring at-risk youth as the beginning of an ongoing commitment to serve. The Boys & Girls Club of McAllen won a Department of Education grant for mentoring in 2007. The program is called McAllen — Youth First. Community leaders are matched with at-risk youth between the fourth through eighth grades. They meet face-to-face once a month at one of the clubs to talk and play together or do homework. The pairs stay in touch weekly by phone or email. The results are touching and profound. Lives are changed and quite possibly saved.

To celebrate National Mentoring Month, the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen took pairs of mentors and mentees to a Vipers Basketball game through a generous contribution of complimentary tickets from the Vipers organization and Mr. Alonso Cantu. Fifteen mentors met their mentees (the youth they mentor) in the stands at the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo.

Frank and Brian

Frank said, “I really enjoyed the time that I spent with Brian and his family during the viper’s game. We both where ecstatic as we watched the game, Shouted at the players and got rowdy. His father took him and accompanied him to the game. I am really enjoying having a little brother. I know that sometimes it’s hard being a kiddo, so I try to take him away from all that by being a goofball.”

Mike and Albert

Mike reports, “Going to the Viper’s game with our mentees was blast! Attending with me were my mentee, Albert Vargas, his sister, Bertha and my wife, Yuko. Albert and Bertha had never been to any games, so they were really excited about going. I tried to remember what it was like when I went to my first game with my dad. He bought me a logo baseball and it meant a lot to me to be able to attend, as I am an avid sports fan. So, I wanted to buy Albert and his sister a souvenir also.

“As we were leaving, Albert told me that he had to write a story in class about the best day of his life, but he couldn’t think of anything to write. He said that if he had to write that again, he would pick the day he went to the Viper game as his best day.”

Volunteer to mentor today by calling the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen at 956-682-5791 or visiting www.bgcmcallen.org.

Laura L. Reagan-Porras, MS is a sociologist and the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen. She can be reached for comment or questions at 956-682-5791 or lreagan_porras@bgcmcallen.org.