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Giving back seems to run in families.

Inspiring mother of five and former New York State First Lady Matilda Cuomo taught her children the value of giving back.

Throughout her life, the former teacher has worked hard to improve the lives of many New Yorkers, and continues to be a mentoring champion through the organization she founded, Mentoring USA.

Since its inception, the organization has provided mentors for more than 5,000 children.

Matilda and her husband Mario Cuomo, the former governor of New York, live in Manhattan.

Here, Matilda Cuomo shares her wisdom and giving back experiences with New York Parenting’s readers.

Tammy Scileppi: How can mentors help build positive attitudes and self-confidence in youngsters?

Matilda Cuomo: There is no question that a child benefits from the support of a caring adult. We know that attitudes toward school, teachers, academics improve, as do family and social dynamics. Every child needs the support of school, home and community working together.

Numerous studies provide powerful evidence that caring adults can positively influence youth. As role models, mentors demonstrate the tangible rewards of completing an education and the responsibility and benefits of being a productive member of society. The individual attention provided by a mentor can introduce a child to new interests, talents and opportunities; improve school performance, and reduce the rate of school drop-out, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy.

Most importantly, a mentor provides reliability in a child’s life. A mentor is a positive, adult role model who can help build and maintain a consistent and trusting relationship with a child.

This invaluable relationship is something a child will carry with him or her for the rest of his or her life.

TS: What was growing up in Brooklyn like?

MC: I am very proud to be a Brooklyn girl and I feel blessed to have grown up there at the time I did.

We shared a sense of community, discovery and creativity that has contributed to some of the greatest achievements of our city. And it was great, great fun.

TS: Why did you decide to embark on this cause?

MC: In 1982, when Mario became governor, the state was faced with serious social and economic problems, including an escalating high-school dropout rate in our public schools.

I led an effort to bring mentors to children in grades kindergarten through 12th, in the strategic effort to support youth, with a trained, committed mentor.

TS: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

MC: Mario and I are blessed to still be busy with matters and issues we feel passionately about. I remain committed to finding mentors for every child who can benefit by the support of a caring adult. I also love to share time at home with my family and dear friends — and, of course, to travel (mostly to Italy.)

TS: Your grandchildren?

MC: Mario and I have 14 jewels: 13 girls and one boy (diamond in the rough) — our precious little Mario. Each one is a treasure and inspiration for the dreams that can still come true in America.

TS: What do you like to do in New York City? How did you spend Mother’s Day?

MC: I enjoy everything about New York City. I try to just walk the fascinating streets and neighborhoods as much as possible. We have many wonderful mothers in our family and we love to celebrate together.

Updated 4:38 pm, December 9, 2016
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