For young people, having a trusted, caring adult in their corner can mean everything.
While this sentence used to be a common-sense assumption, it is now supported by strong research-based evidence. According to the National Mentoring Partnership, at-risk youth1 who have a mentor in their lives experience numerous benefits, like being more likely than their peers to hold leadership roles and being more likely to pursue postsecondary education. Yet, it is estimated that one in every three young persons — including more than 9 million at-risk youth — will grow up without a mentor.
Given all the benefits of mentoring, this fact is devastating. Young people who regularly meet with a trusted adult are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and tend to display a more positive attitude toward school in general. Furthermore, mentored at-risk youth are less likely than their peers to experience depressive symptoms*.
The benefits of mentoring span far beyond middle and high school for mentees. Mentoring helps mentees understand the importance of setting short- and long-term goals, skills that will assist mentees throughout high school, college, and beyond. Additionally, mentors can assist their mentees in preparing for careers by helping them network and learn how to find and keep a job. Without a mentor, some at-risk youth might never learn—or might never care to learn—these crucial steps.
West Virginia GEAR UP’s Student Success Society (SSS) strives to close the mentoring gap so that students have equal opportunity to succeed. The Society launched in October 2016 and since its inception, participating students have met with their mentor weekly. Each meeting has the same underlying message for mentees: despite whatever obstacles haunt their personal lives, they can overcome them by working hard.
During their meetings, members of the Society have worked to develop their leadership, social, and critical-thinking skills. They have discussed with their mentors the goals they have for the school year and for high school as a whole. Through “deep dive” sessions, members discuss their specific goals and envision their futures if they work hard to achieve them. “Booster” sessions emphasize college- and career-readiness. And they work to complete an end-of-year growth project that serves as a reflection of the personal growth group members experienced. The underlying goal of all meetings and activities is to ensure that students gain the confidence and skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
The Student Success Society is already demonstrating how a positive role model can influence students. Some groups have volunteered in the community while others have volunteered in their schools. Some groups have even elected to meet more frequently than their regularly scheduled weekly meeting. The close relationships being formed by group members are key in ensuring that members experience the numerous benefits mentoring offers.
To see some of the activities in which Student Success Society members have been involved thus far, visit the Society’s Storify.
1 According to The Mentoring Effect, “at-risk youth” is defined as youth who is out of school/work who report having experienced at least one of the following conditions: incarcerated parent or guardian, regular absenteeism, poor academic performance, behavioral problems in school, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and homelessness.
* According to the National Mentoring Partnership’s website, mentoring.org.