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The Power of Mentoring: Shaping Lives, Strengthening Futures

By Girls Inc.

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Think back for a moment to your childhood. Who were those people in your life who believed in you? Individuals who opened your mind to new possibilities and expanded your horizons. The ones who inspired you to be your best and dream big. Hopefully a few faces come to mind. In addition to our own experiences, research proves that quality mentoring makes a measurable and lasting difference in the lives of young people.

January is National Mentoring Month. Established by the National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR), the month-long celebration highlights and promotes the positive difference mentors make in the lives of young people. One of the core components of the work we do at Girls Inc. is providing girls with long-term mentoring relationships. Mentors help girls push past gender stereotypes, strengthen their confidence, and brighten their outlook on the future.

Too often, girls still hear, see, and experience messages that say, “You can’t” or “You shouldn’t.” Girls are aware that much of the world values their appearance more than their abilities. They still hear that math is too hard, and rarely see women scientists, astronauts, government leaders, and CEOs. And in the classroom, girls asking questions or pushing back are being labeled disrespectful and not “lady like.”

Girls today face unique challenges growing up. But mentoring can positively impact all young people. In fact, it is the single most important factor in preventing risky behaviors in youth. A mentor offers the support children and teens need to be resilient, to stay on track in school, make healthy decisions, graduate college, and succeed in the workforce. Quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in their personal, academic, and professional lives.

According to MENTOR, students with mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school. Students at risk of not attending college but who have a mentor are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor. Additionally, mentored youth tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them. Yet, 1 in 3 young people will grow up without a mentor. But you can help change that.

Being a mentor isn’t difficult. It just requires a sincere desire to be involved in the life of a young person; the time and commitment; respect and empathy; active listening skills, flexibility, and willingness to have fun. Mentoring relationships are beneficial to youth but to adults as well. Many mentors say that the rewards they gain are as substantial as those for their mentees, including a greater sense of purpose, personal growth, and greater understanding of and appreciation for diversity.

Mentoring, at its core, guarantees a young person that he or she matters, is understood, and lets them know that they are not alone in dealing with their daily challenges. As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, consider the difference you can make in the life of a young person.

Students with mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school. Students at risk of not attending college but who have a mentor are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor. Additionally, mentored youth tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them.