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Mental Health

National Mentoring Month

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National Mentoring Month could very well be one of the most important events our country honors each January. With an estimated 14.6 million children in need of mentors, this event highlights the need for Americans to step up and volunteer. Not only does this event call for individuals to answer the call to mentor, but also for businesses, religious groups, and schools to facilitate this type of relationship.

Since the first celebration of National Mentoring Month in 2002, many famous faces have spoken for the cause, including General Colin Powell, Former President Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, and Senator John McCain. The Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR, and the Corporation for National and Community Service have initiated this celebration and have continued to promote it through public service announcements, ad campaigns, and websites. Using research-based strategies, these organizations offer practical advice for fostering the most successful mentoring relationship.

There are well-known mentoring organizations, like Big Brothers Big Sisters, which have chapters across the country. There are also smaller groups that are run through local religious groups or schools. By affiliating yourself with a mentoring organization, you will receive specific training on your role and responsibilities. A recognized organization has well-established ties to groups in the community and will match you with a child. Under your guidance, a child has the potential to gain confidence, trust, and self-expression which will likely show itself in all areas of her life. One study presented at the 2008 Michigan Dropout Prevention Summit shows that children are five times more likely to graduate from high school if they have a meaningful relationship with an adult.

Another Pew Public/Private Ventures study shows that children who have had a relationship with a mentor for 18 months or more are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs and 53 percent less likely to skip school.

The motto for this year's campaign is "Help Them Get There. Become a Mentor." If you were lucky enough to have a mentor while growing up, you know the profound impact that relationship can have on an individual. If you are lucky enough to be a mentor, you know this relationship is not a one way street, and that you, too, will grow from the experience.

Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. Jennifer also speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. Visit www.jennifercerbasi.com