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Mentoring is an ongoing one-to-one relationship between an adult and a student who needs support to achieve academic, career, social and/or personal goals.

Mentoring programs are operated by schools, community organizations, businesses, religious organizations, professional groups, colleges and various levels of government. They provide students avenues for exploring education and career paths, stronger incentives for staying in school and increased confidence to succeed. Although no two mentoring programs are exactly alike, many experts agree that they need a common set of strong elements: (1) carefully screened volunteers, (2) training for mentors, (3) procedures for matching mentors to students and (4) case-managed support and supervision. In the United States, parents are the central source of emotional, financial and social support for their children. Many young people also are fortunate to be part of larger networks, including grandparents, other relatives, neighbors, and community and religious organizations. Adults in these networks can offer youth extra attention, affection, guidance and a sense of direction all of which are increasingly important given the wide array of outside influences, not all of them positive, that face our youth today.

Family, community and civic life in this country, however, are changing. Fewer people know their neighbors. More households are headed by a single parent or both parents are working. Many young people live in families that are under tremendous pressure because of poverty, divorce, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, violence or stress. These families are often isolated from the larger community and, as a result, the youth in the greatest need of help from outside the family may be the least able to get it.

Mentoring programs are one of the best means of bringing a person who can represent the concern and support of the larger community into the lives of young people. In many ways, mentoring represents a return to tradition, calling upon the community to provide our youth with care and guidance, and to nurture and challenge them. Research shows that providing young people with consistent adult support through a well-supervised, frequently occurring, long-term mentoring relationship improves grades and family relationships, and helps prevent initiation of drug and alcohol use. While mentoring programs cannot remove all of the obstacles facing youth, they can have a large, positive impact on young lives. By offering youth friendship, guidance and a positive perspective on life over a sustained period of time, mentoring programs can show that someone is interested in their well-being and success.

 

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