Mentoring Works

The University of Colorado Center for Study & Prevention of Violence found that Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring programs is one of 11 outstanding programs in our country that meet a high scientific standard of effectiveness. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy released a report in 2012 that ranked mentoring programs for youth as a top prevention program targeting children and adolescents, estimating a $4.87 return on every $1 spent. must! charities is committed to help Big Brothers and Big Sister of San Luis Obispo County have a stronger presence in the northern region of SLO County. Currently there are 34 youth on the waiting list in the North County, and only 3 matches were made last year. Limited resources have forced this organization to focus on maintaining youth services, rather than volunteer outreach and recruitment.

index“Research confirms what we know anecdotally or intuitively – that mentoring works.” For over 25 years, the National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) has developed and delivered resources for mentoring programs nationwide. This excerpt from The Value of Mentoring make a strong case for why mentoring works:

The 2013 study “The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles,” examined mentoring program relationships, experiences and benefits for higher-risk youth. Overall, the study’s results suggest that mentoring programs can be beneficial for youth with a broad range of backgrounds and characteristics. Tailoring the training and support that is available to matches based on the specific risks youth face has the potential to produce even stronger benefits socially, academically, and in the long term.

Mentoring and Academic Achievement

High school graduation is an economic imperative in today’s global economy driven by knowledge and innovation. Mentoring is a positive youth development strategy that supports the Grad Nation goal of attaining a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the Class of 2020. Research has shown that mentoring has significant positive effects on two early indicators among high school drop-outs: high levels of absenteeism (Kennelly & Monrad, 2007) and recurring behavior problems (Thurlow, Sinclair & Johnson, 2002). A landmark Public/Private Ventures evaluation of Big Brothers Big Sisters programs showed that students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school. An analysis of mentoring program evaluations conducted by Jekielek, Moore and Hair found that youth in mentoring relationships present better attitudes and behaviors at school and are more likely to attend college than their counterparts.

Dropping out of school is not a singular event but rather the culmination of a long process of disengagement. It is critical that intervention efforts aimed at students with a disproportionate number of risk indicators for dropping out of high school reach students young enough. Children between 9 and 15 are commonly at important turning points in their lives. It is during this time that they may permanently turn off from serious engagement in school life and turn to a variety of risky behaviors that can limit their chances of reaching productive adulthood. Encouragingly, this is also the age bracket during which preventative intervention is most successful and youth are most capable of envisioning a positive future and plotting the steps they need to take to reach their goals. They are at the right stage of development to best absorb and benefit from the skills of a strong mentor (Rhodes and Lowe, 2008).

A recent highly-comprehensive study conducted by Communities In Schools and the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University identified a variety of predictive risk factors for dropping out. The report states that while there is no single risk factor that causes dropping out, each additional risk factor an individual faces increases the likelihood of dropping out. Some of the key, alterable risk factors the study cites are:

  • Teen parenthood;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Criminal behaviors;
  • Lack of self-esteem;
  • Poor school performance/Grade retention;
  • Absenteeism;
  • Discipline problems at school;
  • Low educational expectations/Lack of plans for education beyond high school; and
  • Lack of interaction with extracurricular activities.

There are also numerous external risk factors for dropping out, such as gender, socioeconomic status, level of parental education, involvement with child welfare services, living in a single parent home and having a parent in prison. Given that the more risk factors a student faces the more likely he/she is to drop out, we can extrapolate that interventions aimed at reducing and removing these alterable risk factors will be more successful at preventing students from dropping out.

Mentoring by a caring adult over a prolonged period of time has been shown in countless academic studies to be effective in combating these risk factors. A number of studies have revealed a correlation between a young person’s involvement in a quality mentoring relationship and positive outcomes in the areas of school, mental health, problem behavior and health (DuBois & Karcher, 2005; Rhodes, 2002; Zimmerman, Bingenheimer & Behrendt, 2005).

Compelling research like this, combined with the data in our own Northern San Luis Obispo County were factors in must! charities collaborating with Big Brothers Big Sisters to bring mentoring opportunities to our community. We are making a 4 year commitment upwards of $253,000 to ensure youth in the north county have access to mentoring, and are investing in a sustainable business model so that Big Brothers Big Sisters continues with a strong north county presence long after must! charities commitment is over.