December 28, 2022

4 Reasons Youth Mentorship is a Big Deal

By: Ericka Andersen

Mentorship is an overlooked word that deserves a second look. Career mentorship is good for anyone, but mentorship for vulnerable youth is where it is most important. Several years ago, when I was writing my first book, I came upon some life-changing statistics. As I wrote about the life of a man who grew up amid poverty and trauma, I discovered how much one caring, adult mentor could have changed the game for him. 

In the time since then, I’ve made it my mission to advocate for the importance of mentorship. Here are 5 reasons why mentorship is a big deal and more healthy adults should engage in the process through organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).

1. Educational benefits. The most likely candidates for dropping out of high school include minority students and those living in poverty. Mentorship studies show higher rates of graduation, increased college enrollment and better school performance overall. 

2. Strong relationships. At-Risk-Youth Programs finds that strong mentoring bonds help encourage kids to take pro-active steps towards “improving relationships with parents and peers.” These relationships are so important for the emotional development of a teenager and will bolster them for a lifetime. 

3. Less likely to use drugs. One study found that students with mentors were less likely to use drugs or alcohol and that such findings were more significant and pronounced in minority youth likely in more vulnerable situations. Research also finds this benefit sticks as they enter into adulthood, even when they are no longer being mentored. The older one gets before using substances, the less likely it is they will become addicted to them (though addiction can certainly happen at any age.) 

4/ Increased self-esteem. Much research has shown that mentoring is a “promising strategy” for increasing self-esteem in youth. One study found results of a “significant increase in mentees’ self-esteem” compared to a non-mentored group. Mentors can help identify and amplify a child’s best qualities, as well as encourage them in various areas of their lives to grow and flourish. 

There is a host of research showing these benefits for vulnerable youth who are mentored, across the board. With 1 in 4 American lacking a father in the home, there are over 18 million who would benefit from a strong, adult mentor. This is not even to mention the thousands of children in the foster care system, who are in even more need of strong adult role models in their lives. For those children who age out of the system, 36% are likely to experience homelessness by age 26. There are several ways to help lower this number, including building support networks like strong mentoring relationships. 

As former foster child and public speaker Josh Shipp has said, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”  

The importance of mentorship in the life of a vulnerable youth cannot be overstated. As young adults, we have the opportunity to offer time, energy and opportunity to some of these children. Whether through Big Brothers Big Sisters, where I was a mentor for 4 years, or another local organization, you can make a difference right now. 

We all dream of changing the world. The truth is, every one of us can do that by becoming that one caring adult in the life of a vulnerable child.