January is Mentoring Awareness Month!
Aisha Abdullah mentors a number of children and she knows first hand how important it is. She tells every mentee: "You have a choice of the person you're going to be. You can make wrong decisions and become a not so good person or you can make pretty good decisions and become a productive citizen."
Aisha is incredibly busy herself -- she is an accounting major at LaSalle University but she does not let her own busy schedule stop her from giving back.
That is why she is helping 19-year-old Bilal Smith fulfill his dream of going to University of Maryland.
Smith told NBC10 if it weren't for his mentor he would, "probably be out doing the wrong stuff, making the wrong moves, making the wrong decisions."
Another mentee, Alexis Johnson says Abdullah had helped her fill out a lot of her financial aid forms for Penn State University where she is headed this fall.
"She's kept my head up a lot. With this whole financial aid thing I've been getting frustrated because it's asking for a whole bunch of info that I can't get or its hard to get and she has a positive attitude she's like 'we're going to get through it,'" Smith said.
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Eighth grader Sundirah Young says Aisha helps keep her on track.
"Sometimes I say I'm not going to do it or make it in life, and she's like Sundirah you can do it! Keep on doing it and keep on trying!" Young said.
They are small words that make a big difference.
Jill Michal, the CEO of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, says kids with mentors are "52 percent less likely to skip a day of school, they're 47 percent less likely to start illegal drugs, they're 20 percent less likely to start to drink."
Michal also pointed out that in this tough economy mentoring provides a way to give back without spending a dime.
Bilal Smith says he loves Aisha like an older sister -- words that make Aisha choke up during our interview. She says her mentees are like her own children.
For more information on how you can become a mentor call: 866-MENTOR3 or visit the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s website.