The cliché about children being our future is true. Vermont’s schools do a great job of providing a base for our youth, but oftentimes there are students who need a little more. That difference might just be a mentor.
January is National Mentoring Month. It’s the perfect time to consider volunteering at a local school to connect with a young person.
The idea behind mentoring is easy: pairing young people with caring adults. It is a proven development strategy that can create a path to successful adulthood for children.
Vermont has a strong mentoring network through Mobius. Across the state, thousands of Vermonters are volunteering in our schools and making a difference. In addition, Everybody Wins! — a literacy mentoring program — has 1,200 children and mentors who just read together for an hour each week at 21 schools across Vermont.
At its core, mentoring guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter.
Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset.
The data on mentoring is clear: Youth who have a mentor are more likely to:
— Attend and be more engaged in school (Students with mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip classes.)
— Finish high school and continue to higher education.
— Form more positive social attitudes and relationships.
In addition, there are other positive effects:
— 46 percent of mentees are less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27 percent are less likely to start drinking.
— 81 percent of mentees are more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not have a mentor.
A study showed that the strongest benefit from mentoring, and most consistent across risk groups, was a reduction in depressive symptoms — particularly noteworthy given that almost one in four youth reported worrisome levels of these symptoms at baseline.
According to one website devoted to mentoring tools, “Mentors are not replacements for parents, guardians or teachers, but they can be an important member of the team responsible for a child’s development. They can help to expand the boundaries of the adult-child relationship to include more fun experiences that encourage positive choices, promote self-esteem and improve academic achievement.”
According to mentor.org, “The outcomes from this relationship create gains for our country through improved educational results, better attitudes and behavior, and reduced juvenile delinquency in children who may fall between the cracks.”
Former President Barack Obama made an impassioned plea when it came to mentoring in 2012, when he noted, “At school and at home, in the library and on the field, mentors lift our youth toward their goals and ambitions. As a teacher, a relative, or a trusted friend, a mentor’s steady and dependable support can inspire a child to strive for success and instill in them the confidence to achieve their full potential. Mentorship strengthens our American family, and by teaching enduring values like diligence and self-discipline, we make a powerful and lasting investment in our youth, our communities and our nation.”
That is a sound investment in our children and the future.
By lending a hand and serving as a mentor, Vermonters have empowered younger Vermonters with the confidence and inspiration to lead rich and fulfilling lives. Those tools will be carried forward for a generation.
This month, adults should commit to make an investment in our state’s future by helping a child discover the best in themselves. Chances are excellent that you will find you are improving your own life as well.