Mentoring youths, 18 and younger, may seem frustrating and at times, pointless. During these stages of development, those being mentored are not likely to express their emotions well, if at all. Consequently, those doing the mentoring might not realize what a profound impact they are having. Rest assured, however, mentoring someone age 18 and under is immeasurably beneficial. The question still comes to mind:
Why should I mentor a kid?
Reason #1: Aid their (and your) Growth
Psychology Today published an article on the effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth. The results of the study indicated that regardless of income level, having supportive mentors increased intellectual, interpersonal growth, and emotional growth among teens. As mentioned above, this is not always obvious. However, when the mentees are given time to grow, it will become much more apparent. The mentor will find that he or she will grow as a mentor as well, learning how to spot growth patterns and indicators. This often even transfers positively into personal relationships with their own children or younger family members.
Reason #2: Self-Improvements
Said teens from the Psychology Today article developed better self-confidence and self-awareness. This begets improvements in other skills as well, such as the aforementioned emotional growth. Better self-awareness and self-confidence allowed students to be cognizant of those around them, aware of their emotional impact on others, and their ability to express these things. Again, mentors learn more about themselves through mentoring programs than they did before. So, anyone who mentors can improve their own self-esteem while they lend a helping hand.
Reason #3: Time Management
As a mentor, a better appreciation for diversity and understanding of other cultures is a natural benefit, especially when mentoring youths from diverse backgrounds. Because those from other cultures are accustomed to utilizing their time in many different ways, mentoring is an opportunity for mutual growth, mutual rewards, and mutual lessons learned. As mentors understand how they learn to be productive with their own time, they also note improvements to the planning skills, organization, and problem-solving of mentees too. Students with mentors are noted to enjoy better time management, if only as a side benefit.
Reason #4: Better Academic Attendance
Each of these benefits tie in to the benefits noted by the National Mentoring Organization. With the help of mentors, children have been found to skip classes 37% less often. As a whole, they skip school at a rate of 52% less than their non-mentored counterparts. One amazing statistic that really stands out is that students with mentors are 46% less likely to use drugs and 27% less likely to drink. Long term, those under 18 who have had a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college after their graduate high school.
Reason #5: Higher Engagement
Students who have mentors are 78% more likely to volunteer regularly themselves, which naturally improves the chances of getting accepted into college and helps build the character traits mentioned above. 90% of them become interested in mentoring themselves, creating a wonderful “giving-back” cycle. Said students are also 81% more likely to engage in other extracurricular activities.
Reason #6: Build Leaders
Youths with a mentor are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions, mimicking those mentors who were willing to take the time to build into them. Now more than ever do we need to cultivate leadership skills in youths.
How to Get Started
Knowing the top 6 benefits, anyone interested in mentoring should take the following steps to get started:
Firstly, you need to figure out what your personal interests and needs are. There are many forms of mentoring programs out there, and you should find one that is suitable to you. Before jumping in, take a moment to determine:
- How much time you can dedicate to mentoring?
- What age you want to work with?
- Would you want to work with a group or an individual?
- What interests you have and how you want to parlay that into your mentorship, i.e. do you want to help with homework, encourage a specific skill you already have, or just be that adult friend who cares?
- What location is best for you?
When you are ready, there is a national mentoring organization by the name
MENTOR which runs a database. Inside of this database are all the pieces of
information you would need to become a mentor, improve yourself as a mentor, or
find national organizations that run mentorships in your area. Through their
site, “mentoring.org”, you can review a large database of existing programs and
refine the list by location—presumably yours. You, of course, do not have to
use them. You can search through other sites locally, ask around your
community, churches, and schools about mentorship programs, or just use that
site to get referrals for state or local programs. To watch a great video that
says Mentor Someone without saying a word, click
Once you have found a handful of programs, talk to their volunteer coordinators and let them know that you are interested in mentoring. Using the answers to the questions listed above, explain how much time you have, what you would like to help with, and how many children you want to mentor. Ask them how they match people like you to youths, and figure out whether you will be working with a one time project, short term or long term, etc… You may, for example, wish to start with a short term project before you commit more time. Conversely, you may prefer engaging now with a homework support program that pairs you with a child whom you help year after year.
There may be an application and subsequent training. This might include a written application, reference check, background check, and/or personal interview. Today is the right time to get started!