By: Melody Morales, Contributing Writer.
Polk County - Think of a time when someone you looked up to had a major positive impact in your life. What role did this person play? What lessons did you learn from this person? How did this person impact your life, and how did that impact get you to where you are today?
This month, we have the opportunity to embark on a discussion around the importance of mentorship. National Mentorship Month is commemorated throughout the month of January and propels communities to explore the impact of mentorship on our youth. The University of Washington defines mentorship as the process by which an individual shares “information about his or her own career path, as well as provide[s] guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling” to a mentee. They also emphasize that the role of a mentor evolves as the needs of his/her mentee progresses.
The Stand Together Foundation (STF), an organization that focuses on “break[ing] barriers for people in poverty so that they can realize their potential” conducted studies that analyzed the impact of mentorship on our youth. Amongst the results, it was possible to see that the impacts of mentorship on academic performance have proven to be a significant factor that drives success amongst students. The most prominent finding from these studies showed that students with a mentor showed an increase in performance, school attendance, and graduation rates. Furthermore, it was identified that mentorship increases the “likelihood of [a student] attending college by 50 percent.”
However, beyond the positive impact on academics, mentorship also allows for influence on the emotional and psychological well being of our youth. The studies conducted by the STF concluded that the presence of a mentor in the lives of students caused an increase in confidence and the development of personal goals and aspirations. Comparatively, it decreased feelings of anxiety, negative behaviors, and the students’ susceptibility to peer pressure. These studies also saw considerable results that indicated that mentorship paved the way for a decrease in illegal and potentially harmful behaviors regarding drugs and alcohol.
As you can see, mentorship is an important activity that can contribute to the overall positive development of our youth. This ensures that we, as a community, are providing them with the necessary tools to succeed so that they are able to pave out their futures. So why should you consider being a mentor? Well, besides all the wonderful benefits for our youth that have already been mentioned, there is also a great deal of personal fulfillment that you can obtain from mentoring a child in need. Firstly, this is a great way of giving back to your community and ensuring that you are doing your part to propel it forward. The STF emphasizes that the “most impactful way to improve your community is to spend time investing in it,” which is why it is important that we take action now. Ideally, your actions and contributions as a mentor will resonate within the community and have the potential to spark a domino effect. They also highlight that, in most cases, “you may be the only stable, positive impact in a youth’s life” and that “the ripple effect is tremendous.”