Mentoring: Saving At-Risk Youth

Today’s youth are the hope of a new generation, but what happens if at an early age they fall victim to a culture and/or lifestyle that leaves them at-risk of failure. Whether rich or poor, our society is plagued with traps that are disguised as treasures that include racial discrimination, prescription drug abuse and pornography in television and main stream media.

These traps have devastating effects on children, particularly when they do not have the guidance to know the difference between a trap and a treasure. Many urban youth are witnessing and living through something called the “normality of poverty,” in which case everyday life involves crime, violence, gangs or a prison institution mentality. This is the society that youth today see every day. It is a reality and a sad fact that we must accept as part of our daily lives.

What can we do to lessen the effects that society’s traps have on our youth? Saving at-risk youth by mentoring may just be the answer. It may not eradicate the problem at once, but mentoring can make a huge difference in the life of a child. It is a way to reintroduce a positive activity by a responsible adult outside the regular home environment.

"Children who are mentored while growing up are unlikely to succumb to using illegal drugs, to start depending on alcohol, and unlikely to miss out school."

If we incorporate mentoring at home, school and church, it can help significantly in decreasing the cause and effect of poor academic performance, which leads to increased high school drop-out rates.

At-risk children badly need the guidance and friendship that youth mentors give. A child will definitely yearn for adult support when faced with parent’s divorce, family heartbreaks, and financial troubles. These children need mentoring with their family problems, school work, peer pressure or just someone who would listen and give an unwavering support.

Regrettably, teachers in school who teach in a crowded classroom will have no time to provide individual attention. Guidance counselors are very busy too, because they deal with the whole population of the school. Most of the time guidance counselors can only give less than four hours of career guidance to a student in their four years in high school (one hour a year). There are millions of at-risk young children who desperately need mentoring. Both large and small at-risk communities across the country are setting-up programs for volunteer youth mentors. Local leaders, educators and clergy, acknowledge and understand the need to help children and youth cope with problems in their daily lives.

At-risk children who are guided by an efficient mentor are more than likely to have a progressive educational performance, high self-esteem, good decision-making traits, and a sense of fitting in. Youth who participate in mentoring programs will be inclined to have good interactions with their teachers, parents and other siblings as well as their peers. Youth with mentors will also be more inspired to focus on their studies and are more likely to complete their high school education.

According to a report from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership - “Young people who had mentors report setting higher educational goals and are more likely to attend college than those without mentors. High expectations and higher educational attainment are key factors in life success. More than three quarters (76 percent) of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half (56 percent) of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. At-risk young adults with mentors are also more likely to be enrolled in college than those without a mentor (45 percent of all at-risk youth with a mentor are enrolled in some type of post-secondary education as opposed to 29 percent of at-risk youth who are enrolled but never had a mentor).

A youth mentor may assist a youth in setting goals, resolving personal conflict, and help in making appropriate life decisions. However, youth mentors are not there to replace what a parent can give to their children. Youth mentors are simply there to give help and be role models for at-risk children. Simple and easy activities like helping with homework or school assignments, going to parks and museums, participating in sport activities/events, playing board games, and doing art and crafts projects.

Many at-risk youth may not be eager to open up to a mentor. However, through the consistent interaction of a mentor, they will develop a sense of security and a feeling that they are safe and protected from the world around them. In the end, saving at-risk youth by mentoring will have a great impact in the society we live in for years to come. With the right kinds of support, these young people could put themselves on a path toward bright, productive futures, and make vital contributions to their families, neighborhoods and nation.

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