On January 13, 2014, MENTOR, a member of the National Human Services Assembly, released their report, The Mentoring Effect, which analyzes young people’s perspectives on the outcomes and availability of mentoring.
Mentoring programs can be both formal and informal, but both have lasting impacts on youth. Formal mentoring programs are more structured, and tend to focus more on a student’s academic life, while informal mentoring opportunities tend to focus on a youth’s social and personal development. The study found that mentoring has a huge impact on all young people, but a much larger impact on at-risk youth. Surveys from at-risk and disconnected youth show that they do want to work, to get back into school, and to support their communities. At-risk youth with mentors, however, get the support they need to find and pursue these opportunities. 16% more at-risk young adults with mentors were more likely to enroll, and plan to enroll, in post-secondary education. They’re also more likely to participate in extracurricular activities at school, take on leadership positions, and volunteer regularly in their community.
The report also found that long-term mentoring (measured as longer than a year) has a much more meaningful and positive impact on youth. 67% of young adults with long-term mentoring relationships rated mentoring as being very helpful, compared to just 33% who only had a mentor for a year or less.
Given these positive outcomes, it’s surprising that 1 in 3 young adults didn’t have a mentor of any kind while growing up, and at-risk young people, those who benefit the most from mentoring relationships, are most likely not to have one.
MENTOR’s report argues that mentoring programs multiply the effects of other programs and initiatives, and mentoring programs are instrumental to reducing poverty, truancy, dropout, and drug abuse, and they promote healthy decision-making, positive behaviors, and positive futures. Mentoring programs work, and they are a common-sense solution for strengthening the success and opportunities of our at-risk youth.
Young adults who are disconnected from school and work costs taxpayers $93 billion annually in lost wages, taxes, and social services. Conversely, every dollar spent on youth mentoring programs yields a $3 return on investment. By investing in proven mentoring programs, we can lower dropout rates, raise the college completion rates, and increase the economic mobility in our country. Why postpone what we can do today?
Our country is dedicated to the ideal that a child’s success and opportunity in life should not be limited because of where they were born. It’s time to ensure that all children, no matter where they live, have access to proven mentoring programs that allow them to grow, thrive, and succeed.