|The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring|
|By The National Mentoring Partnership|
This report shares the findings from the first nationally representative survey of young people’s perspectives on mentoring. While mentoring is needed and wanted by young people to help them stay on the path to high school graduation, college success, and productive adulthood, a significant mentoring gap exists in America, especially for at- risk youth. More than one in three young people — an estimated 16 million — never had an adult mentor of any kind (structured or “naturally occurring”) while they were growing up. This population includes an estimated nine million at-risk youth who will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor — and who are therefore less likely to graduate high school, go on to college, and lead healthy and productive lives. The survey also revealed a difficult paradox that the more risk factors a young person has, the less likely he or she is to have a naturally occurring mentor.
There is also good news. Encouragingly, young people confirmed and deepened our understanding of what research tells us: structured and naturally occurring mentoring relationships have powerful effects which provide young people with positive and complementary benefits in a variety of personal, academic, and professional factors.
While a significant mentoring gap exists for at-risk youth, the survey also found that the more risk factors a young person has, the more likely he or she is to have a structured mentor, indicating a positive trend toward closing the mentoring gap for those most in need. The survey also revealed key leverage points where mentoring can better support young people, including by using structured mentoring as an intervention strategy to meet the needs of youth most at-risk. In the absence of naturally occurring mentoring relationships, structured relationships can help young people stay on or return to a successful path when they may falter, and help them achieve key milestones on the path to adulthood, such as high school graduation and college completion.
This report provides insights on young people’s perspectives on mentoring in three areas: (1) Mentoring’s Connection to Aspirations and Outcomes; (2) The Value of Mentors; and (3) The Availability of Mentors. The report then offers recommendations to guide community, state, and national partners in their work to close the mentoring gap and increase the powerful effects of mentoring. By connecting young people to caring, consistent, and supportive adults, the nation can help young people achieve their dreams, and also strengthen communities, the economy, and our country. In addition to the nationally representative survey of 18- to 21-year-olds, this report reflects discussions with key leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and education, and a literature and landscape review of the mentoring field. While the field of mentoring has reported service gaps in the past, the estimates in this report are not meant to provide a direct comparison. Instead, they are meant to form the most accurate picture possible of how the mentoring needs of young people are currently being met through their perspective, highlight gaps that remain, and chart paths forward to create more caring adult relationships in the lives of children.
INSIGHT AREA 1: Mentoring’s Connection to Aspirations and Outcomes
Mentoring helps young people, especially at-risk youth, succeed in school, work, and life. A strong research base supports the efficacy of quality mentoring, including a recent meta-analysis of more than 73 independent mentoring programs that found positive outcomes across social, emotional, behavioral, and academic areas of youth development. In our survey, we find evidence to suggest that young people’s experience confirms this: youth with mentors are more likely to report engaging in positive behavior.
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.
Young adults who had mentors, particularly those at-risk, are more likely to report engaging in productive and beneficial activities than youth without a mentor.These activities translate into the higher self-esteem and self-confidence that are necessary traits for youth to engage in teamwork and community work, and to be successful in life.
The longer the mentoring relationship lasts, the greater the value for youth. The survey confirmed that the length of a mentoring relationship matters, both in structured and informal mentoring relationships.
INSIGHT AREA 2: The Value of Mentors
Young adults value mentoring relationships. The survey shows that young people also believe mentoring provides them with the support and guidance they need to lead productive lives.
Informal and structured mentoring relationships can provide complementary benefits.
Mentees want to serve as mentors, indicating both an endorsement of mentoring and a powerful proof point that mentees are empowered to contribute to the world around them.
INSIGHT AREA 3: The Availability of Mentors
A mentoring gap exists that the nation must close. The research demonstrates — and young people agree — that mentoring relationships support personal and academic outcomes, regardless of a young person’s background, as well as help prepare young people for the future workforce. As at-risk youth are simultaneously more likely to have academic struggles and less likely to have naturally occurring mentors, their immediate mentoring needs could be met through formal mentoring programs. While the field of mentoring has grown significantly in recent years, millions of young people — especially those who could most benefit from a mentor — still do not have a supportive adult in their life.
One in three young people do not have a mentor. The rates are even higher for at-risk youth, likely the result of compounding risk factors including poverty, limited networks, schools with large proportions of high- needs students, and under-resourced communities.
At-risk youth are less likely to have mentors and more likely to want one. They understand the value of mentoring and report having wanted a mentor at higher rates.
The mentoring needs of youth who demonstrate the early signs of falling off track to graduate are not being fully met. A powerful research base shows that attendance, behavior, and course performance in reading and math (“the ABCs”) are highly predictive of a student’s likelihood to graduate from high school, and that early interventions can get students back on track — while saving schools money. Mentoring can be a powerful early intervention, and more students with these risk factors could benefit from getting the preventive mentoring support they need.
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MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) is the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States. For nearly 25 years, MENTOR has served the mentoring field by providing a public voice, developing and delivering resources to mentoring programs nationwide and promoting quality for mentoring through standards, cutting-edge research and state of the art tools.
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