William Holston: Mentoring | KERA News

William Holston: Mentoring

Dallas, TX –

We're headed toward the season of giving. Although, you could say commentator William Holston has been doing so year-round.

When Odysseus headed off to fight in the Trojan War, he knew he must leave a trusted person in charge to help raise his son Telemachus. Homer records the person was named Mentor. Later, the French author Fran ois F nelon used this myth to weave a tale designed to show how to pass on knowledge to the next generation. Since then, we've used the title Mentor for those who become guides and trusted counselors for others.

Mentoring is not just a buzz word, however. It is the most critical strategy to accomplishing good that I know. Mentoring can change the world because of the multiplication factor. There are only so many non profit boards I can be on - and only so many pro bono cases I can handle. But, by being a mentor, I am a part of non profits I've never heard of, utilizing skills far beyond my own.

The Dallas Bar Association embraced this idea several years ago, and formed a Transition to Law Practice Committee. This committee pairs experienced lawyers with brand new lawyers, leveraging experience, to produce better more ethical new lawyers.

With some frequency, I receive phone calls from young people interested in pursuing human rights work. People in their twenties have such a passion for changing the world. I never say no to the opportunity to meet with and mentor them. A year or so ago, a young lawyer named Stephanie called me. The Dallas Bar Pro Bono Committee sent her to me as someone who might be able to direct her enthusiasm for human rights work. I introduced her to Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, the best asylum law project in America. Stephanie recently sent me an e-mail telling me her client was just granted asylum. She has now successfully completed three cases for the agency. And she's signed up for more.

I also get to meet young people interested in starting non-profit human rights agencies. Tekla is working to prevent sex trafficking of minors. Justin helps refugees tell their remarkable and inspiring stories. They have enthusiasm, skills and ideas, but they can all use the steadying hand of an older and wiser person. By nurturing their ideas, and encouraging them to pursue those dreams, I expand my influence into areas I'd never imagined.

The best example of this is my friend Betsy Healy. She was a young lawyer in a large downtown law firm. I was the mentor lawyer on her first asylum case. Betsy had enthusiasm and skill, but no practical experience. So we spent hours talking about how to prepare and try a case in Immigration court - along with her passion for human rights work. Betsy won that asylum trial. And the experience of obtaining refuge here in America for her client transformed her. Eventually, Betsy left that lucrative practice and founded Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. Through that agency, millions of dollars of pro bono services have been provided by hundreds of lawyers to people seeking refuge in America. I'm not taking credit for that, but my investment in time in encouraging one young person reaped a return which is multiplied many times over. And, as Betsy in turn mentors young people, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

You don't have to wait for formal mentoring programs to get involved. There are plenty of young people ready to change the world. They are all around you and they could use an older wiser Mentor. That could be you.

William Holston is an attorney from Dallas.

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