Children and teens are an important part of our communities. They are the future of our communities, after all. When children take a troubled path, succumbing to crime, drug addiction or self-destruction our communities suffer. One way to help shape a bright, positive future for youth is through mentoring.
Mentors are advisers, teachers and guides about classes, careers, jobs, and life choices. Above all, mentors are motivators and role models, who believe in their mentees, see their potential and help them get to where they want to go. Children and adolescents are at important periods of development. Youth are vulnerable to taking the wrong step, which is why mentors are important for them. Mentors may not be able to change how fast a child’s brain develops or force a child to make certain decisions, but mentors can share their worldviews, experiences, knowledge, support and advice, as well as provide a positive influence. By introducing youth to new experiences and sharing positive values, mentors can help young people avoid negative behaviors and achieve success. Studies have shown:
- 59 percent of mentored teenagers earn better grades.
- 27 percent of mentored youth are less likely to begin using alcohol.
- 52 percent of mentored youth are less likely to skip school.
- Youth with mentors have increased likelihood of going to college, better attitudes toward school, increased social and emotional development, and improved self-esteem.
Studies also show that at-risk youth are the most likely to benefit from a mentor. A study of 46 programs for delinquency (e.g., aggression, drug use and academic achievement) found mentoring for high-risk youth to have a positive effect on delinquency, academic functioning, aggression and drug use.
Despite the importance of mentorship for youth, one in three young people report never having an adult mentor while growing up. This statistic translates to approximately 16 million youth, including 9 million at-risk youth, reaching age 19 without ever having a mentor.
Parents and guardians are obvious choices, as they are naturally in the lives of youth and are some of the most influential people in their lives. Parents and guardians are youth’s number one influence against poor choices, with 91 percent of teenagers in one study citing parents as good role models. However, parents and guardians may not possess all the answers, and sometimes, youth need an external person or a variety of people with whom to talk and share their thoughts.
Teachers, coaches, ministers and neighbors are great options outside of parents and guardians. Referred to as informal mentors because they are naturally-occurring and not matched, they all have the capacity to be good role models, inspire youth and shape their future. Mentors for youth are also available through formal and structured mentoring programs.
January is National Mentoring Month and a great time to begin a mentoring program. Here are some organizations in Cleveland that offer mentoring programs: