Did you know that kids in mentoring relationships are less likely to skip school or drop out, and experience a boost in their self-esteem and confidence? When all is said and done, mentoring boils down to the relationship between one child and one adult who become connected and bonded emotionally. They are tremendously enriched for having known one another.
In Plainville, Ray joined the school-based mentoring program when he was in 3rd grade. His mother advocated for him to join the program because he was distracted and having difficulty maintaining self-control in class. Fast forward to today and Ray is an articulate and determined college student. His mentor, Maryann, was faithful in coming to see Ray and their relationship continued through middle and high school. There are thousands of stories like Ray’s, and thousands of mentors who give of themselves on a regular basis because they believe in nurturing the next generation of budding engineers, scientists, and workers of all kinds.
I’m proud of the 100+ corporate partners who support mentoring and look to January, National Mentoring Month, as a time to recognize and thank each of them. Thinking about Ray, and all the children in mentoring programs around the state, renews my commitment to do more, to make greater strides and to continue to build momentum so that ultimately every child who wants a mentor will have one. My hope is that corporations around the state will join our crusade for mentors. Webster Bank, in particular, has been involved in school-based mentoring since 2002. They are truly a role model for corporate mentoring program success. I feel especially fortunate to live in a state where business and industry leaders lend their hand to ensure a strong safety net for young people.
Since 1998, The Governor’s Prevention Partnership has furthered mentoring as an effective approach for serving young people with support and encouragement and has helped guide them toward a positive path in life. Fifteen years ago, the words “mentor” and “mentee” were barely a part of everyday language, yet now they are commonly used, and mentoring is applied in a variety of settings. I believe it’s because mentoring works.
In Connecticut, there has been a shift in youth mentoring. While school and community-based programs are still the most prevalent, we’ve seen mentoring programs expand to serve children of incarcerated parents, and most recently, children involved in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. Mentoring models abound—e-mentoring, group mentoring, peer mentoring, community-based and site based mentoring are just some that are taking place.
The goal of the Connecticut Mentoring Partnership is to ensure that mentoring programs understand and are able to incorporate best practices into their approach. These best practices, known as quality standards, are research-based elements that increase the likelihood that young people have positive outcomes in their mentoring relationships, and include things like mentor screening, matching, training and support.
We estimate there are over 150 mentoring programs, serving over 12,000 young people in Connecticut. Yet the need for more mentors and more mentoring program capacity is great. In Hartford alone, there are approximately 1,000 mentoring relationships, yet thousands of additional children could benefit from being connected with a caring adult. Just the other day, I spent a few minutes talking with Kelvon, a fifth grader, who was suspended in fourth grade for not attending school. Kelvon’s vivacious personality and genuine smile immediately brought me back to fifth grade. We talked and he told me things are getting better every day with Michael, his mentor, by his side. Kelvon is on a brighter path, thanks to his special mentor. Imagine the possibilities for others just like him.
In 2014, The Governor’s Prevention Partnership will launch the Connecticut Mentoring Fund to help more children like Ray and Kelvon. This public-private initiative will raise and disseminate funding to support and grow mentoring around the state. Based on a similar fund in Massachusetts, The Partnership will work with the legislature during the next session to create the fund through legislation. The Fund will complement work that is currently taking place on a pilot project, the Connecticut Quality-Based Mentoring Initiative that is working with 25 programs to measure the impact of their program practices, and will provide seed money to programs that wish to expand their quality-based components. Serving more young people, expanding mentoring programs and advocating for mentoring are ambitious goals, and it is only through partnership that we can reach these goals.
Jill K. Spineti
President and CEO The Governor’s Prevention Partnership