David and Keontai Header

Opinion

One in Three Young People Lacks a Mentor. You Can Help Close the Gap.

David Shapiro

This blog is part of the #Recommit2Kids campaign, marking the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance and calling the nation to recommit to action on behalf of children and youth.

By David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership

David ShapiroMy life, perhaps like yours, has been shaped by adults who loved me and, in ways both pragmatic and emotional, showed me the way or gave me the opening and the security to find my way. Not every young person has that kind of relationship with an adult, but each one deserves to, each one needs to.

Nearly 20 years ago, MENTOR was proud to be a founding partner of the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, the gathering that led to the founding of America’s Promise Alliance. That event gave a huge boost to the mentoring movement, resulting in a wave of first-ever local public funding for mentoring and the founding of many of our local affiliates.

The Presidents’ Summit made central the promise of a caring adult and enlisted policy makers and business leaders to join nonprofit and education leaders in seeking strategies for closing the mentoring gap. We put down a marker, a covenant we must uphold to young people. No longer could it be left to chance.

We’ve made tremendous progress since then both in understanding the impact of mentors and in calculating the need for more of them.

The Impact. When done well, the stability and security of a mentoring relationship can be the very thing a young person needs most. It’s a gateway to the kind of skill development, goal setting, and belief in one’s self that leads to a fulfilling future.

The Mentoring Effect, the first nationally representative survey of young people on the topic, found that mentored youth are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, hold leadership positions. and set higher educational goals. Most important, for their future and our economy, mentored youth are 55 percent more likely to attend college than those without a mentor. 

Recent research from the Center for Promise – from Don’t Call Them Dropouts to Don’t Quit on Me to Relationships Come Firsthas poignantly depicted the necessity of relationships and shown what both the absence and the presence of webs of support can mean for young people.

The Need. The latest research shows that 4.5 million at-risk youth will have a structured mentoring relationship while they are growing up. That’s good news. But still we know that one in three young people will reach adulthood without a mentor. This is our collective unfinished business.

To close the mentoring gap, we will need actions big and small from every sector and every corner of America. That’s why we’re excited to spread the word and join in answering the call from America’s Promise to #Recommit2Kids.

We are committed to a movement that makes relationships primary in young people’s lives so that no young person walks the road alone. That isolation is more than anyone can bear and won’t instill the thriving, problem-solving, resilience, and striving that should be the hallmark of all our young people.

I believe in mentoring because I believe in young people, and I believe we are at our best when we truly embrace the notion that our fates are connected as families, as communities, and as a nation. 

Join us.

David Shapiro is CEO of MENTOR, which serves as a unifying champion for the mentoring movement. Its central pursuit is to expand opportunities for our nation’s youth by connecting young people, especially those in communities of the highest need, with caring adult mentors.