Guest Column: 1 in 3 children will grow up without a mentor

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Guest Column by Mary Jo Volkman

Mary Jo Volkman


As National Mentoring Month came to a close in January, I wish to extend a great big thank you for raising awareness of mentoring in its various forms. During their city council meetings, the cities of Albert Lea, Alden and Wells declared January 2020 as National Mentoring Month in their cities. KATE Radio allowed me to talk about STARS Mentoring to their listeners the first Friday of this month.  Hopefully listeners heard our STARS Mentoring advertisements this month on KATE and 94.9 radio and last month on Power 96 radio. Albert Lea Tribune featured a great article for National Mentoring Month in the Jan. 15 issue. I was happy to attend our local Community Connect event at First Lutheran Church to promote and spread the word about STARS.  And a STARS Mentoring digital billboard advertisement was running all month long on East Main Street.

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If, by now, you don’t know about STARS Mentoring Program, let me tell you a little about the benefits of mentoring. Mentoring programs make our communities stronger by promoting healthy relationships and communication between adults and children.  Along with that, young people feel empowered, encouraged and supported by having a volunteer adult mentor. A youth’s self-esteem improves, and students who meet regularly with their mentors are more than 52% less likely than their peers to skip school. Youth who face an opportunity gap, but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those without a mentor.

Yet, with all these positive benefits of having a mentor, there are still one in three children who will grow up without having a mentor.  Two-thirds of adults consider it highly important for young people to have mentors, and that same population estimates that only a quarter of youth have the mentors they need. Research shows that 44% of adults are not yet mentoring but are willing to consider it and mentoring is poised for growth.

With “recruiting individuals to mentor, especially in programs that have waiting lists of young people” as another goal of Mentoring Month, I wish to extend an invitation to individuals willing to volunteer to mentor to contact me, Mary Jo Volkman, at STARS Mentoring, at 507-383-5272, or on our website, or on Facebook Stars for Kids. Mentoring relationships are a shared opportunity for learning and growth.  Many mentors say that the rewards they gain are as significant for them as well as those for their mentees. Mentoring has enabled them to have fun, achieve personal growth and learn more about themselves.  Mentors may feel like they are making a difference along with feeling more productive and having a better attitude at work. Also, mentoring enables a better understanding of other cultures and develops a greater appreciation for diversity. Above all, taking the time to get to know a mentee and learning new things that are important to them will be valuable in the long run and will build a lasting relationship of friendship.

This is the time of year where engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is the highest, and the opportunity is definitely there to help ensure positive outcomes for young people.  Mentoring guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they really matter.

Mary Jo Volkman is program coordinator for STARS/Community Mentor Connection.