January is a time when everyone typically gets back to work after taking off a month and a half, but Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, the City of Greensboro and the United Way of Greater Greensboro are asking everyone to see the month as something else as well – a time to sign up to mentor kids who need guidance during the most important stages in their lives.

The idea is that children who have little to no interaction with positive adult role models are much more likely to fail in life – while those with mentors have a much better chance of growing up to contribute to the community rather than be a drain on it or even a threat to it.

On Friday, Dec. 28, Vaughan said mentoring wasn’t just a nice thing to do – she said it’s instead essential for the well-being of the kids, who she said really need that type of relationship with an adult.

“Mentoring is a critical part of developing life-changing relationships,” the mayor said, adding that it has been proven to have “a positive effect on academic, social, and economic outcomes for our young people.”

In 2002, National Mentoring Month was born, and, since then, it’s enjoyed the support of presidents, the US Congress and celebrities. Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Usher, Cal Ripken Jr., Bill Clinton and Bill Russell are just a few of the big names who have helped publicize the national effort.

Greensboro is one of many cities across the country where the month is promoted strongly and used as a time to up the numbers of mentors available for service.

Throughout January, city officials and United Way staff are making a big push to find mentors for about 30 programs.  For instance, one is the United Way’s African-American Male Initiative, which provides mentors for youngsters, starting in the second grade and going through the ninth.

According to research presented by the United Way, kids who have mentors are 55 percent more likely to end up in college, 81 percent more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities and 78 percent more likely to regularly volunteer in their communities.

They are also, according to that research, 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions – so Vaughan may be planting the seeds of competition for her mayoral job if she still plans on holding that position in three decades when these youngsters might enter politics.

The city and the United Way have several special events planned for January as part of mentoring month.  Everything kicks off on Friday, Jan. 4, with “I Am a Mentor Day” which will be, “A day for volunteer mentors to celebrate their role and reflect on the ways mentees have enhanced their world and share their stories about being a mentor on social media using #MentorIRL, #MentoringMonth and #MentorGSO.”

There’s also a special event planned for Monday, Jan. 21 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – which will be a mentoring “Day of Service” in honor of King’s memory.

Other events throughout January will also promote the month of mentoring.

Michelle Gethers-Clark, the president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro said that those who volunteer to be mentors fill a real need in the community and in the lives of the kids.

“Too many young people right here in Greensboro lack sufficient support to succeed in school and in life,” she said. “Each of us has the power to truly impact the future for our youth by simply being a caring adult in their life as a friend and mentor.”