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Mentoring: Investing in Young People, Investing in the Future

Submitted by: David Shapiro

Posted: Oct 02, 2015 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: Education for a Sustainable Future

Tags: education, youth mentorship, community engagement


This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to http://www.csrwire.com/blog/series/86-education-for-a-sustainable-future/posts

We know the story.  We know that, while tremendous progress has been made, a significant mentoring gap still exists in America for young people.  We know that students from families and communities enduring economic hardship are less likely to grow up with adult mentors outside their family.  As a result, these students are less likely to graduate high school and go on to college.  We’ve heard it before, and we’ll likely hear it again – unless we choose to act differently.

Mentoring helps young people succeed, especially those youth at-risk of becoming disconnected from work, school and the community.  Through consistent guidance, support and encouragement, mentors help young people set goals and achieve them.  When done well, the stability and security of a mentoring relationship can be the very thing a young person needs most.  It’s a gateway to the kind of skill development, goal setting, and belief in one’s self that leads to a fulfilling future.

Higher education leads to better access to opportunity for young people, and supportive mentoring relationships help students get there.  At a time when the opportunity gap is widening, mentoring has become increasingly valuable in helping to build a stronger, more diverse workforce.  

A report informed by the first nationally representative survey of young people on the topic of mentoring, The Mentoring Effect, looked deeper into this topic, and found that mentored youth set higher educational goals and are 55 percent more likely to attend college than those without a mentor.  These positive outcomes are especially critical as we confront the millions of young people between the ages of 16 to 24 who are currently neither in school nor employed. 

These young people are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, hold leadership positions, and often possess higher levels of confidence necessary to succeed in school or at work.

To be clear, mentoring does not magically clear barriers.  It is honest and respectful in that it does not say, “I aim to change who you are or replace something missing in your life.”  It does however, say “I am here to stand by you, believe in you, and I am invested in your path, goals and success.  Simply put, I will keep showing up for you.”

I believe in mentoring because I believe in young people, and I believe we are at our best when we truly embrace the notion that our fates are connected as families, as communities, and as a nation.  My life has been shaped by those adults who loved me and, in ways that were both pragmatic and emotional, showed me the way or gave me the opening and the security to find my way.  Not every young person has that kind of relationship with an adult, but each one deserves to, and quite frankly must.  

I recently listened to a mentee who had experienced trauma beyond imagination throughout her upbringing.  Today, she stands on the doorstep to college with a full scholarship and admits that her relationship with her mentor gave her the ability to trust and love despite everything else she’d been through.  

With an increasing number of youth growing up under the stress of financial insecurity, with incarcerated parents, and in transience, mentoring has the potential to improve the social and economic opportunity of millions of kids if we have the public and political will to insist on it, and make the necessary investments of time and money.  We cannot leave this powerful asset to chance.

Our role at MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership along with our affiliate network of Mentoring Partnerships is to unify the field, to elevate innovative practices, to set the standards for safe and effective techniques, and to advocate for public policies that integrate quality mentoring programs.  Through this work, we expand the capacity of the mentoring field and work across sectors to grow the movement and address some of the deepest challenges faced by our nation’s youth. 

We have seen deep impact in our work to help private sector entities develop mentoring strategies and engagements.  For businesses, this work offers the kind of meaningful community engagement that helps with recruitment and retention, and addresses the development and identification of our future workforce.  Working with private sector organizations like LinkedIn, for example, we have worked to draw the critical connection between career mentoring and the link to social and economic mobility created by mentoring young people.

However, this work will only continue to be successful with the participation of every sector and every corner of America in actions big and small.  We need to act today, and we stand ready to help mobilize any individual or entity that wants to join the movement, because the future of our kids, and our country, cannot wait until tomorrow.

This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to http://www.csrwire.com/blog/series/86-education-for-a-sustainable-future/posts

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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