Common sense, experience, and numerous studies tell us that the most effective way to influence youth is through spending quality one-on-one time with them. Mentoring helps keep kids in school. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, students who meet regularly with a mentor are:
- 52% less likely than peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class
- 46% less likely than peers to start using illegal drugs and
- 27% less likely to start drinking
- Minority youth are 70% less likely to initiate drug use than similar minority youth not in a mentoring program
- Estimated median annual cost of quality mentoring programs per youth is $1,000 (Child Trends Research Brief). High-risk youths who are kept out of trouble through intervention programs could save society as much as $2 million a youth per lifetime.
Typically a mentor spends 2-3 hours per week with the same youth for at least a 6-month period. The types of activities they are involved in depend on the particular interests of the mentor and youth. First, they must build a relationship from which the mentor earns the right to be heard by the youth.
Through becoming acquainted with each other's interests, likes and dislikes, family background, school and work situations, trust begins to be formed. Once a youth is convinced the mentor really has his or her best interests in mind, then he or she will be willing to communicate about the many issues that affect their life directly. Because of neglect on the part of many inner city parents, many children are growing up feeling very alone and uncared for. Becoming a mentor is a way to fill in some of the gaps, build a potential life long relationship with a child and really make a difference.
Emotional Attachments to Caring Adults
Parents are not the only important adults in the lives of young people. Resiliency research attests to the over-arching significance of adult mentors and role models, especially for young people who face educational disadvantage. In many studies, the single most important factor
in long-term success is the presence of an adult, whether a relative, teacher or community member, who provides a consistent nurturing presence in a young person’s life.
The most effective teachers are those who build strong relationships with students, provide opportunities for students to contribute, and foster a welcoming environment. Research indicates the effects of these relational practices far outweigh the value of a teacher’s
credentials or years of experience in effectively promoting learning. Smaller schools and smaller classrooms
are also more effective for exactly this reason: they create an environment that allows teachers to build individual relationships with their students.
Caring adults do not necessarily have to be teachers. Parents, church members, afterschool staff, and others who form a strong relationship with a young person have a powerful opportunity to guide his or her attitudes toward school and eventual school success.
Researchers who have followed
resilient children into adulthood have repeatedly shown that, if a parent is incapacitated
or unavailable, other persons in a youngster’s life can play such an enabling role, whether they are grandparents, older siblings, caring neighbors, teachers,
ministers, youth workers, Big Brothers or Big Sisters, or
elder mentors. A combination of caring adults and small groups allows students to develop a sense of connection to school (or an afterschool program). Resiliency research indicates that students who feel a sense of belonging and identification with their school are more likely to have positive attitudes toward school, higher academic aspirations, motivation, and achievement.
Critical Hours: Afterschool Programs and Educational Success, Beth Miller, Nellie Mae Education Foundation.