by Diane Hentges
January is National Mentoring Month. Research shows that mentored youth are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 37 percent less likely to skip a class, 33 percent less likely to hit someone, and 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol.
In addition, research has shown that 84 percent of youth who are mentored have better self-esteem, 62 percent are more aware of educational opportunities and 57 percent have improved family relationships. From these statistics it seems that mentoring has an effect on positive youth development.
What does it take to be a mentor? It takes a caring adult volunteer who is willing to make a commitment to a youth in need. A number of youth focused organizations recruit volunteer mentors. Volunteers need to complete an application with the organization of choice, be interviewed, and agree to a background check. Programs will provide training for volunteer mentors and support to the volunteer as needed. It is simple to become a mentor and to positively affect the life of young person in our community.
Some of the agencies in our community that recruit volunteer mentors:
Big Brothers Big Sisters service is based on a one-to-one relationship between an adult volunteer and a child at risk. Volunteers serve as friends, mentors and role models, helping children gain greater self-confidence. “Bigs” encourage “Littles” to realize their potential and see themselves as having happy and successful futures. www.bbbskc.org
Boys and Girls Clubs empowers youth to support and influence their community through programs that develop educational proficiencies and technological skills, encourages positive behaviors and self-reliance, develops fitness and social skills and engages participants in stimulating activities. www.bgc-gkc.org
Ozanam responds to the behavioral, emotional, social and spiritual needs of children and their families with dignity and care, providing a continuum of innovative services of the highest quality in Kansas and Missouri to young adults, ages 16-23 including scattered site apartment living, supervised transitional home, employment support, educational advocacy, and transportation and life skills training. www.ozanam.org
YouthBuild KCK is a 10-month comprehensive human development program providing education enrichment, construction skills, and job training to at-risk young adults between the ages 16-24. All trainees split their time between the classroom, construction sites, and doing community service. www.unitedway-wyco.org
YouthFriends is a nationally recognized and rapidly growing school-based mentoring network involving more than 70 school districts across the states of Missouri and Kansas. You will find local school districts in the metro area participating in this program. www.youthfriendskc.org
For more information on how you can give, advocate and volunteer, contact me at 913-371-3674 or at email@example.com. You can find volunteer opportunities by checking out our website, www.unitedway-wyco.org and click on Volunteer.
Diane Hentges is the director of the Volunteer Center-RSVP, at the United Way of Wyandotte County.