According to the Children’s Defense Fund 15 million young people in America need a caring, significant adult in their lives. Decades of soaring divorce rates and broken families have left an alarming number of youth without adults to help them grow up.
The result is an increase in the five major social epidemics confronting our youth: teen pregnancy, educational failure, drug and alcohol abuse, gang involvement and childhood obesity. The cost to our society is estimated at $500 billion.
There is a proven antidote to these youth plagues, one that has a powerful cost/benefit payback: MENTORING (Mecca, 2011). Mentoring can help reverse the epidemics that plague our children and provide support for our youth in ways that add value to the efforts of their parents or in some cases, to their own efforts to grow up.
Today the pressures on our youth to achieve at higher academic levels in all subject areas while in school is intense. More than ever before, new strategies to support our youth in their efforts to demonstrate proficiency at world-class levels are needed. Mentoring should be recognized and utilized as one of those strategies.
As a strategy for helping young people succeed in school, work and life, mentoring works. An impact study conducted by Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization (194-1995), showed that after 18 months of spending time with their Big Brothers Big Sisters, young people were:
§ 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
§ 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
§ 52% less likely to skip school
§ 37% less likely to skip a class
§ 33% less likely to hit someone
Parental Involvement – A Challenge
In Delaware, as in all states around the country, many schools are struggling to find creative ways to involve more parents in the educational experiences of their children. One of the most important elements to be addressed in Delaware’s turnaround school plans is that of parent and community engagement. Research has clearly highlighted the value that supportive parents and adults add to a student’s learning experience. Students with involved parents or significant adults in their lives have improved attendance, behavior, social skills, grades and more likely to graduate from high school.
Schools with track records of weak student performance express concern about a lack of parental involvement for students who struggle academically. Parent outreach efforts have often met with limited success in these schools.
Mentors as Parent-Partners – Working Together
Schools and non-profit organizations throughout the State of Delaware are looking to find more mentors for our youth. The mentor recruitment efforts are focused on identifying individuals who are willing to serve as parent-partners, supporting mentees in their school experiences and as well as their personal growth journeys. Since parents serve as their children’s primary mentors, other caring adults serving in a mentoring role can support those students and families in their child-rearing and educational achievement efforts.
Today our youth need more than academic supports to make it through high school successfully. Too many students have no significant adult involved in their education for a number of reasons. These students often move through the school system without having anyone to provide encouragement, support or validation as to how much value education adds to their lives.
Acknowledging that research has clearly demonstrated the positive impact that mentoring has on young people, the Mentors As Parent-Partners model is designed to support students and their parents by providing students with mentors who are willing to assume “enhanced” mentoring roles. These mentors, working closely with teachers, can provide academic enrichment to students and support to parents who have not been as involved as they need to be in their children’s educational experiences. School and community support staff will be used as vehicles to enhance communication between the school, mentors, mentees and their families.
The enhanced mentoring role would include responsibilities such as, but not limited to, the following:
1. Provide students with academic, social and emotional support as part of a structured program built upon a one-to-one or group relationship framework between mentors and youth
2. Provide additional student support by monitoring attendance, behavior, course grades and/or progress towards grade promotion standards or high school graduation requirements
3. Serve as “tutors” providing students with “extra-time” academic concept and skill development support that is aligned to their learning needs as identified by teachers who work with those students
Individuals working with students in this enhanced mentoring role and parents of mentees would be supported by training and technical assistance provided by school staff and/or any one of several organizations that provide mentoring support services throughout the State of Delaware.
A Call to Action
The Mentors as Parent-Partners model acknowledges the important role that mentoring plays in supporting the “whole child” in both the educational and home arenas. This model can serve as a fundamental resource and strategy to help close the “parenting gap” for so many young people who need the support of other caring individuals in their lives.
Mentoring is an investment in our youth! The Delaware Mentoring Council stands ready to serve as a catalyst bringing together local, state and national organizations as well as other stakeholders, including our business partners, to support students in our schools and communities. We as a mentoring community, working with our parents and others, want to ensure that all of our children are given the opportunity to grow up and realize their potential as well as see their dreams come true.
Mecca, Andrew M. A Plan for Life. Tiburon, CA: California Mentor Foundation, 2011.
Robert J. Andrzejewski, Ed.D is the Executive Director of the Delaware Mentoring Council.