January is National Mentoring Month
Check out www.mentoring.org, the website of MENTOR, a national non-profit organization devoted to increasing the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people. It makes the case for mentoring
Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset.
Most of us readily accept the value of mentoring. We have had mentors of one kind or another in our lives and deeply appreciate their contribution to our development. Further, most of us can understand that mentoring is even more important for “at risk” young people. It should come as no surprise that many of the disadvantaged people that the Foundation seeks to serve do not have access to mentoring. MENTOR calls this the “mentoring gap.”
Effective mentoring has become the gold standard for the Foundation’s scholarships serving students with disadvantages. We have learned that preparation for college is more important than money. Students who are not emotionally and academically prepared for college have little chance of success. It is the mentors of these students who prepare them and continue to support them after the transition to college: teachers, volunteers and non-profit organizations. A great example of this is the Johnson Scholars program and Take Stock in Children.
Mentoring is also a significant part of most of the Foundation’s non-scholarship programs. Eye to Eye, for example, provides mentoring to middle and high school students who learn differently. We invest in Eye to Eye because mentoring is the most valuable thing that can be given to these aspiring students. Bridges from School to Work and the Statler Center are two Foundation supported programs that help to train and place people with disabilities into the competitive workplace. They accomplish this good work through intensive training and personal support. Staying with the disability programs, our scholarships at the State University System of Florida continue to attract increasing non-monetary support.
Our investment in Pathways to Education is a hybrid of capacity building and student scholarship support. Pathways’ various supports – social, academic and financial – amount to mentorship for these children and account for high retention and graduation rates. Another Foundation investment that supports underserved children, Nativity Prep in Boston, achieves similar results by connecting to its students in middle school and following them through high school, college and into the workplace. Our investment at Nativity is not for scholarships but for its ongoing support (mentoring) of its students.
The Foundation’s mission is to assist disadvantaged people to obtain education and employment. We have come to understand that mentoring is at the heart of our work. Mentoring helps young people, particularly those that face disadvantages, to see a bright future and to understand that they can and should have a bright future. In the Foundation’s grantmaking we must be mindful of the importance of mentoring and that one-third of young people need further access to mentoring. The social and economic value of connecting with these young people cannot be overstated.