This month marks the 11th anniversary of National Mentoring Month. In his proclamation on Jan. 3, President Barak Obama, fully recognizing the impact of a mentoring relationship on young people said, "Every day, mentors help young Americans face the challenges of growing into adulthood. By setting a positive example and sharing their time, knowledge, and experience, mentors play an essential role in preparing our nation's youth for a bright future."
Too many children lack strong and sustained relationships with caring and nurturing adults. Without these connections, young people are more vulnerable to poor school attendance, decreased academic performance, and inappropriate or "risky" behaviors such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or promiscuous sexual experimentation. Responsible and caring adults afford them the opportunity to recognize there are other paths to take and a different future to strive for and attain. Mentors have the unique opportunity to open new horizons for their matches as they explore worlds of discovery, improve their self-esteem, and increase their independence. By the same token, mentors themselves are enriched and rewarded in ways never imagined, by giving freely of their time and talents.
Nationally, three million children have mentors but there are fifteen million waiting for that special person to walk into their lives. Chautauqua Striders currently has 90 matched youth but there are many more like Mariah who still ask "Can I have a mentor?" Chautauqua Striders' mentoring programs have been able to put together very successful matches. To date, the average school-based (interaction takes place during school lunch hours) mentoring pair lasts 22 months, far surpassing the national average of 5.6 months. Additionally, community-based (interaction takes place after school hours) relationships last on average 33 months, compared to the national average of nine months. Children perform better academically and miss fewer days of school.
Michael (mentor) and Danny (mentee) thoroughly enjoy their lunch time together each week.
Chautauqua Striders spends nearly $1,400 per year on each mentoring match for recruitment, screening, training, and relationship monitoring. Mentors are well supervised; no one is left without adequate training and support, as he or she accepts this responsibility. On a broader scale and prompted by First Lady Michelle Obama's Corporate Mentoring Challenge at last year's National Mentoring Summit, companies are being asked to step up by encouraging their employees to get involved and they are providing opportunities for them to do so within the work day. Organizations such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and United Way Worldwide, will again sponsor the second annual National Mentoring Summit, Jan. 24-25, in Washington, D.C.
Recognizing the need for strong and positive adult role models for children and youth of all ages is a priority, mentoring has become one of the fastest growing facets of Chautauqua Striders. Beginning in 1993, programs have flourished in Jamestown, and have now spread to the Southwestern and Dunkirk school districts. Mentors are very much needed in every location. The time spent with a young person is relatively short but the rewards for both mentor and "mentee" can be beyond measure! For more information or for ways to contribute to mentoring programs, log onto SERVE.gov/MENTOR, www.mentoring.org or www.chautauqua-striders.org or call Chautauqua Striders Mentoring, located at the Raymond J. Fashano Technology Academy, at 483-4384 and ask for Amanda, Lorraine, or Alex.
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