January is always a time for reflection; a chance to evaluate where we are as individuals and a community. The state of our youth in our community is troubling - mental health is in crisis, chronic absenteeism is high, and our national leadership is vanishing. But as a community we have the tools, and people, to turn the tide. We need our youth to have access to more mentors.
Mentorship to youth has proven to address all three areas of concern. But statistically, 1 in 3 of our youth do not have access to a mentor1 - and it’s concentrated in our disadvantaged communities. Frequently, the most consistent mentor in a youth’s life is a coach but that access is limited if they don’t have the means to participate. When asked the most important thing a coach tries to teach players, a Falling Creek Middle School coach said, “That their success comes from preparation and hard work. Nobody is going to give them success, but it is earned. The process of becoming successful starts with them believing that they can and will be successful and then working to achieve that success.” Hearing this message consistently builds confidence in our youth and supports a positive mental health outlook.
Mentorship also addresses chronic absenteeism. Many of our school districts are struggling to reduce chronic absenteeism. While some of this is due to the illnesses circulating, much is due to a prevailing attitude of not caring and no accountability. However, mentors provide consistent accountability and expectations of our youth. Mentors routinely focus on attending class and achieving good grades so our youth can enjoy extracurricular activities. This is the carrot and the stick. A mentor who helps a student overcome chronic absenteeism now is instilling in the future adult the work ethic necessary to succeed; remember it’s not given, but earned.
Leadership skills are perhaps the greatest contribution mentors teach our youth. According to MENTOR National, youth who receive mentorship are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions in the future.2 In essence, the student becomes the mentor. Our community, and every community, will face significant challenges in the future. If we are to overcome them, we need to be building leaders now. Our youth need greater access to mentors so our community can yield the collective benefits.
This January, National Mentoring Month, as you look inward to develop resolutions, think of how those resolutions can also be applied outwardly to better our community. And don’t forget to thank the mentor who helped you be successful!
1,2 - MENTOR National, https://www.mentoring.org/mentoring-impact/ (11 January 2023)