Photo courtesy of Carrie Cook

January is National Mentoring Month, a campaign launched in 2002 that focuses attention on the need for mentors and promotes opportunities for those who want to get involved. This month, we’re talking to local leaders about their mentors and which mentoring organizations they’re supporting.

Carrie Cook, executive director, GreenLight Fund – Charlotte

A product of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cook is known for her civic engagement and charismatic personality. As executive director of the Charlotte office for the GreenLight Fund — an organization pulling together community leaders to address social and economic problems — she’s leading a team to invest $3.5 million into the community to impact upward mobility. When it comes to mentorship, she believes deeply in empowering girls and women to develop their full potential. That belief led her to start EmpowHERment, Inc. in 2012. Cook continues to rack up the accolades, but she makes a point to pour into others just as others have poured into her.

Who is/are the mentor(s) who made the biggest impact on where you are today?

Aside from my mother, Jametta Martin-Tanner and Graig Meyer are two of the best mentors I’ve ever had. Jametta was my Assistant Principal at Vance High School. We are friends to this day. She’s been a lifelong mentor and a phenomenal educator.

After college graduation, Graig was my boss at Public Allies. He ran a mentor-advocacy organization that helped me to better understand educational equity, critical race theory and working in the nonprofit sector. Today, he is a member of the State Legislature and still advocating for educational equity, among many other issues.

What’s the best advice they gave you?

It’s probably less about what they say, and more about what they do. They’ve always listened actively and supported me unconditionally. They have a gift for encouraging me to trust my gut when making decisions, remaining true to my purpose and passion. Mentors who believe in, and support, your authenticity are everything!

What’s a local mentoring organization everyone should know about?

Of course, I’m going to say EmpowHERment! The organization provides for girls to not only have mentors, but also develop their talents and voices as community advocates. The program pairs girls in ninth grade with one-on-one mentors for four years and intentionally connects them for monthly leadership activities. This is where the girls and women define, develop and defend their voices individually and collectively. It’s so powerful to see what happens through these mentoring relationships — not just for the mentees, but also for the mentors and our broader community.

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