Looking into the clouds

Opinion

We can change the dialog by listening

David Shapiro

“What youth really need is that main person they can actually talk to…to be comfortable and open up to and let that one person know about their life.”

That’s powerful insight from a young man, just 21 years-old, named Nico. His statement captures the essence of mentoring – a deliberate relationship between an adult and a young person where the most important factor is that the adult consistently shows up for the young person and listens.

This year, both America’s Promise Alliance and MENTOR put that core principle to the test in two new reports that put the youth perspective at the center of our efforts to advance effective solutions to the barriers of success that too many of our nation’s young people face.

We listened to young people.

What they told us in the America’s Promise report “Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” is that they long to make meaningful connections with adults and that more adult support and guidance could go a long way in fostering their existing resilience and determination to be successful.

And in our report, “The Mentoring Effect,” we found that young people who were at-risk for falling off the path to graduation but who had a mentor were:

  • 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor
  • 81 percent more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities
  • More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team
  • 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities

As one survey respondent told us, “My mentor came into my life and provided structure, did things with me that my parents couldn’t. He took me out to play ball, just sat and talked with me, and kept me from doing other things, like being in the streets.”

A mentor is a critical asset in a young person’s life who can give him insight into a future he may not have known was possible; who can help her stay engaged in school and graduate; who can inspire and guide him in the transition to college; who can help her see herself as a contributing member of a community. The mentoring effect delivers improved economic opportunities and social mobility.

This month, we’re launching The Mentoring Effect – an online hub for stories that demonstrate how the mentoring effect produces a chain of outcomes that leads to stronger schools, workforce and communities. We’ll showcase stories about school districts that are seeing an overall performance boost because they’re leveraging mentoring for student success. We’ll look at how some law enforcement agencies are engaging in mentoring as a violence prevention strategy. And we’ll showcase examples of private sector investments in mentoring that results in employment development and satisfaction while building the workforce of tomorrow.

We invite you to browse The Mentoring Effect and lift ideas from the innovative ways mentoring is being used to address some of our most pressing challenges. And we invite you to share your stories as we continue to listen and change the dialogue. 

David Shapiro is the president and CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. David is with his mentee Keontai in the photo.