Street gangs, drug addiction, child prostitution, homelessness, abuse and neglect are major concerns for our youth. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24. Half of the U.S. youth population (17.6 million kids) is considered “at-risk” of getting into trouble with the law, or “high-risk” and already in trouble.
Our children urgently need help, and mentoring has been proven to work!
Research shows that kids who are mentored have improved school attendance and better academic performance, a good attitude, less hostility, more self-esteem and many other improved qualities.
Mentors report that they’re happier with their families and careers. They gain respect from their associates and feel terrific about giving back to their communities. It’s very empowering to know that you have influenced a child’s life, which can ripple out to touch many others.
There are different types of mentoring: One-on-One Mentoring, Group Mentoring, Team Mentoring, Family Mentoring, e-Mentoring, Peer Mentoring and more. Mentors inspire us to try harder and give us confidence to reach for more ambitious goals. They teach us how to make good choices and also open doors to new opportunities that normally wouldn’t be available. Disadvantaged youth are especially in need of support.
Mentoring requires commitment and responsibility. You MUST keep your word and be dependable to have a positive effect. If you break your word, you’ll do more damage than good. Most importantly, LISTEN! Kids need to communicate and vent their feelings. It’s important to hear what they say and to be as open-minded as possible. Don’t force your beliefs on them.
Tasha is a great example of how mentoring can change a life. She grew up with a dysfunctional family in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood. From ages 13-16, she kept running away from home and ending up at detention centers. Through Create Now, I introduced Tasha to her mentor Lisa, who encouraged her mentee to apply to college. As a result, Tasha graduated from USC Film School with a scholarship and attended her first year of law school at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She’s now writing film reviews and performing standup comedy.
The longer you mentor, the greater the effect. However, even short-term mentoring works. Frank was in a detention facility for ditching school and doing drugs. The boy turned his life around after just one hour with his mentor, jazz saxophonist Michael Lington, who told his mentee to be persistent and responsible. Frank said, “No one ever told me that before.” Now he works at the hottest record store in L.A. while perfecting his saxophone skills.
Where do you find kids to mentor? Search the Internet to contact foster group homes, detention facilities, homeless shelters, schools, youth clubs, community-based organizations and religious centers. Also, visit www.mentoring.org to find mentoring programs in your area.
There are a lot of things that you can do with your mentees. Many of these kids have never been out of their own neighborhoods. You could take them on a trip to the beach, a hike in the mountains, to a movie, restaurant, bowling, or to visit a museum. Expose them to cultural events like the theater and concerts, or just hang out and talk.
There can be challenges to mentoring. Perhaps your mentee misses appointments. Maybe family members interfere. Your mentee might confide something that’s alarming. How do you react if they’re using drugs or engaging in sex? What if they want to borrow money? Common sense takes care of most of these issues, and the rewards far outweigh any difficulties.
Mentoring is a process that grows richer with time, and bears delicious fruit. Imagine being asked to attend your mentee’s college graduation. Think of the joy you’ll feel when you are honored at their wedding, or become the Godparent of their child.
These children represent our future. If everyone contributed just an hour or two each week to mentoring a child or a group of kids, we could create powerful transformations. No matter where you live or what you do for your occupation you can impact a child. Through mentoring, you can make a big difference in yourself, your community, and the world!