Laura Reagan-Porras

Mentors have existed throughout history. Jesus mentored his disciples. Early literature such as Homer and the Odyssey mentions mentoring. In Eastern thought masters trained or mentored disciples in the disciplines of martial arts. Throughout history artisans and craftsman have passed on their trades as a kind of mentorship to their apprentices. Native Americans have long had relationships of chosen kinship for their children with a kind of village of uncles, aunts and elders. Religious traditions have long held the importance of godparents in mentoring children.

Today there are many types of mentoring, informal and formal, group mentoring and one to one mentoring matches, curriculum based mentoring and youth led mentoring. Mentoring happens naturally between siblings or teens to children. Even adults are mentored in the workplace.

The modern concept of mentoring for positive outcomes with youth began in the 20th century in juvenile justice and social work venues. The mentoring movement organized in 1997 during the Summit for America’s Future now known as America’s Promise, for whom Colin Powell is one of the founders and spokespersons. At the summit the value of caring adults in the life of children that support issues of health, education and skills building for the future was emphasized.

The Department of Education for the purpose of their grantees, defines mentoring as, “a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of youth being mentored (mentees),” according to Dr. Susan Weinberg of the Mentor Consulting Group.

In these trying economic times, even in two parent homes, much less single parent homes, the parents are busy with the business of surviving with multiple jobs, making ends meet. Children spend much time increasing amounts of time in front of the television or in front of computer or video games and less time interacting with adults. Classrooms are overcrowded and teachers are worried about test scores, so there is little time for real student interaction. Unfortunately, this lifestyle leaves children starved for adult interaction.

All youth need mentoring in that all youth need role models to show them the ropes of successful adulthood. In sociology, we call this socialization. It takes place everywhere at home, in school and in the community at large. Children need caring adults to help them prepare for adulthood.

Mentoring programs work! Youth in formal (purposed and intentional) mentoring programs are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, early sexual activity or teenage pregnancy, poor school performance, truancy or even dropout.

In 1995 at the beginning of the national trend to formalize mentoring programs, a national research firm called Public Private Ventures found these positive outcomes for youth involved in formal mentoring programs.

• 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs

• 27 percent less likely to start drinking

• 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school

• 37 percent less likely to skip a class

• Earn higher grades and feel better about school performance

The McAllen Youth First Mentoring Program at the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen in partnership with McAllen Schools creates positive results with youth and teens empowering them to reach their full potential. As the new Boys & Girls Club of America slogan states, youth can be great!

Mentors don’t have to be great — they can be ordinary. It requires time and willingness to listen and build a bond of trust with a child; then share yourself, your stories and your values. Mentoring for positive outcomes for young people begins with asking the young person, basic questions with interest and listening to the answers given.

• What did you do today?

• What did you learn in school today?

• Who did you hang out with?

• Who or what do you want to be when you grow up?

• Who or what do you admire?

It takes only one year of commitment to weekly contacts to make a huge measurable difference in the life of a child. Please call today to sign up (956) 687-3910 or visit our website at www.bgcmcallen.org.