NBA legend Michael Jordan believes so much in the power of mentorship that he has made a multimillion-dollar donation to a national nonprofit whose mission is to “break the cycle of generational poverty.”
Friends of the Children selects kids who are at risk of continuing the cycle of poverty in their own lives and pairs them with trained, salaried professional mentors called Friends.
“What stood out to me about Friends of the Children was that they employ and train their mentors and that they commit to every child for 12-and-a-half years,” Jordan said, in a statement on Thursday. “That dedication is important to me.
“My mentors believed in me and taught me the power of perseverance. I want youth in Friends of the Children to see that they have that same potential.”
According to the nonprofit, “Research has shown that the single most important factor for building resiliency in children who face the highest risks is a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult.”
Research also proves that quality-mentoring relationships have a powerful impact on young people in academic and professional situations. And in regard to diversity in professional settings, mentoring relationships make a difference.
For example, DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Mentoring have high percentages of managers participating in formal, cross-cultural mentoring and significant involvement from senior leadership. This results in more diversity in the talent pipeline to the top.
Jordan’s spectacular professional career, leading his team to six NBA championships, was influenced by one of his mentors —North Carolina coaching great Dean Smith. He called Smith “more than a coach — he was a mentor, my teacher, my second father.”
“In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life,” Jordan said.
Kobe Bryant, also an NBA great, named Jordan as his mentor.
“When I came to the league and [was] matching up against [Jordan], what I found is that he was extremely open to having a mentor relationship and giving me a great amount of advice and an amazing amount of detail, strategies, workout regimen and things like that,” Bryant told ESPN in 2016.
“Seriously, I don’t think people really understand the amount of impact that he’s had on me as a player and as a leader.”
Jordan’s donation will help expand Friends of the Children, which is based in Portland, Ore., to 25 more cities. It has 15 locations across the country and in the U.K. He has helped the organization meet the $25 million goal.
In May, Jordan also helped the organization by donating the proceeds from his memorial “Last Shot” shirt release by Nike.