We’re taking a second look at the aims and benefits of mentoring just now, in the thick of National Mentoring Month. That’s because the proceeds of what we do at Kars4Kids, goes toward mentoring youth. We know that mentored youth are 50 percent more likely to go to college. Mentored girls and boys also do better in school, have increased self-esteem and fewer behavioral issues, and are more motivated to succeed. No one can doubt that these benefits are the main reason that mentoring youth is both important and necessary.
But mentoring teens is a whole ‘nother story. We think of adolescence as a difficult time for our youth because it is accompanied by rapid physical and emotional changes. The truth is that adolescence is not just difficult, but actually dangerous. Kids aged 15-19 are six times more likely to die as a result of injury compared to kids aged 10-14. The teenage mortality is higher overall, and teens are more likely to commit crimes and abuse alcohol, compared to any other age group.
In the past, people thought that rash adolescent behavior was about hormones. But now we know it’s mostly about their brains which are still undergoing changes, pruning gray matter to become the adult brain we all know and love. The brain that makes us rational actors.
Teens have no control over this process. Having a caring adult to guide and support them can make all the difference between a kid who drops out of school and ends up an adult failure (or worse) and a kid who makes it through with flying colors. Mentoring teens, in short, saves lives.
Most of us can remember those difficult years when we were teens. The fact that we made it through may be due to some caring adult(s) who made the effort to mentor us.
Perhaps it’s time to pay it forward.