Impact of Mentoring Programs
An essential, yet missing link in the development of many at-risk young people is the consistent influence of an adult who cares about, supports, and guides them. The many problems of at-risk children and teens, from trouble in school to violence and drug abuse, indicate their need for sustained relationships with positive adult mentors. Through continued involvement, mentors play a major role as young people learn to make good decisions and work to correct earlier problems. Mentors play a particularly critical role when parents are either unavailable or unable to provide responsible guidance for their children. Mentors improve the social and emotional development, educational achievement, and health and safety of young people by reorienting their goals to help them envision new possibilities for the future.
Social and Emotional Development
Young people who are in need of positive adult relationships often have difficulty relating to adults, particularly those in positions of authority. Mentoring seeks to redefine the role an adult can play in a young person’s life. Through mentoring, the validation and acceptance kids seek from negative role models, like gang leaders, is replaced with the healthy attention of a positive, invested mentor. When young people have relationships with stable, healthy adults who care about them, they are less likely to make poor decisions. These caring mentoring relationships promote self-esteem and self-control in young people, and as a result, mentored youth often grow to trust other authority figures and communicate better with them.
Mentoring programs invest in local communities by fostering a sense of community pride and value in young people, especially regarding academics. By helping students take control of their lives in a productive way, mentoring cultivates a new generation of leaders who have the academic skills necessary to thrive. Young adults with mentors progress farther in academia, earn more money, and are more likely to make and adhere to defined plans for their professional lives. Most importantly, mentors help young people see value in school and open their eyes to their own academic abilities.
As positive mentoring relationships strengthen youth self-worth and confidence, students’ grades improve and truancy and absenteeism rates drop. Mentors can also advocate for students seeking higher education, especially to parents who might be threatened by the idea of their children going to college.
Health and Safety
Not only are young people with mentors more likely to finish high school and go on to college, they are also less likely to be involved in gangs, fights, drugs, and general risk-taking behavior. Young people with mentors also have higher levels of self-esteem and satisfaction with their lives and are more likely to be physically active.
Mentoring relationships are most successful when they involve long-term connections between a mentor and a young person who share similar backgrounds and life experiences. By linking young people with mentors already within their existing cultural reality, it is easier for an organic connection to form and grow. Good mentoring relationships involve a genuine attempt to understand the issues at stake and an authentic, mutual exchange rooted in empathy and collaboration. Sometimes the most important aspect of a successful mentoring relationship is simply the young person’s knowledge that someone likes, believes in, and wants to spend time with him or her. Local religious leaders like the Claretians understand the necessity for this type of mentoring and are uniquely positioned to provide it to the at-risk young people in the neighborhoods where the Claretians already work and live as neighbors.
Read more about tCI's impact through mentoring programs on our Impact Blog.