In Homer's The Odyssey, when Odysseus set sail for the Trojan War he left his son, Telemachus, in the care of his wife, Penelope. He also asked his friend, Mentor, to provide watchful support for his son while he was away. In this way, Odysseus' friend, Mentor, became known as the first mentor.
The origins of formal mentoring in the United States started in 1904, "...when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement." (www.bbbs.org)
By 2005 nearly 3 million American adults were in formal one-on-one mentoring relationships through mentoring organizations all over the country. (MENTOR, 2005)
Today, the need for mentors is massive: "An estimated and astounding 18 million young people – nearly half the population of young people between 6 and 18 – live in situations that put them at risk of not living up to their potential." (www.mentoring.org)