School-Based Mentoring Programs

Due to the findings of previous research, and the common sense notion that children benefit from additional adult support, it is commonly believed that well-implemented mentoring programs can help youth be successful, and there are about 870,000 youth in the United States currently benefiting from mentoring. The most common form of the mentoring is for adults or older youths to visit students on the school campus, typically one hour during or after school, to provide the student with friendship, support, and academic help. This approach is called school-based mentoring (SBM).

Some of the benefits attributed to mentoring include reduced alcohol and drug use, better parent-child relationships, better school attendance and positive attitudes about school. To learn more about the impact of mentoring programs, the Big Brother Big Sister of America (BBBSA) program developed a study that involved more than 70 schools and 1,139 youth in grades four through nine. These youth, their teachers, and the mentors were surveyed in the Fall of 2004 (baseline), the end of that school year (first follow-up), and again in late Fall 2005. There was also a cost survey for school administrators during the 2005-2006 school year.

The results of that study reported that the programs were very inexpensive and :
  • Mentoring programs targeted low-income schools, and 80% of the youth lived with a single parent and/or were receiving free lunches;
  • Only 9% of the mentors focused on academic improvement as their central goal, with most focusing on relationship-building, instead;
  • Youth improved in their overall academic performance and quality of class work, skipped school less, and felt more competent in school; and
  • The longer the match between mentor and student, the stronger the outcomes.

In addition, there was evidence that students did better when the contact continued through the summer, which makes sense given the last result above - that length of time matters. I believe that all contact matters, and that all youth benefit from having adults who care about them in their lives.

Photo Credit: Olaf

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