Halzel: Connecting youth with caring adults
January is National Mentoring Month, and Bright Future Foundation’s Buddy Mentors program is celebrating the annual campaign aimed at expanding quality mentoring opportunities to connect more of our community’s young people with caring adults. Buddy Mentors is based on the Big Brothers Big Sisters model of one-on-one community-based mentoring.
As our community continues to grapple with the ongoing challenge of mental health resources, we may find ourselves asking, “What can be done?” Or maybe even, if we are feeling motivated, “How can I help?” It is this thought process that inspires many conversations I have with youth and adults and which causes me to reflect on what buoyed me in my adolescence. I am very clear that it was the solid grounding of my relationships — not only peer friendships, not only family, but the supportive, caring adults who guided me along the way.
Increasingly, research supports that what fosters positive change in one’s mental health is genuine, consistent support and presence. Relationships where one feels truly heard boost self-confidence and self-worth in ways that cannot be measured with statistics.
Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to strive and thrive, to attend and engage in school, and to reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are:
- 55% more likely to be enrolled in college
- 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities
- 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities
- More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team
Yet, the same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor. Today, in our community there are many young people who could benefit from having a mentor outside their family.
At the same time, research shows that 44% of adults are not yet mentoring but are willing to consider it and mentoring is poised for growth. 18- to 29-year-olds are more than twice as likely to cite having had a mentor in their childhood than those over 50. Almost half of today’s young adults report having a mentor in their youth and those rates appear to have been rising steadily over the past several decades.
National Mentoring Month is the time of year where engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is highest. With the support of the mentoring community, we are encouraging the public to go beyond just digital engagement — and become involved in real life.
To learn more about the role mentoring plays in our community and to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.MyBrightFuture.org or call Rachel at 970-763-7212. Buddy Mentors is also having an open house at Color Coffee in Eagle on Tuesday, Jan. 21, to celebrate National Mentoring Month.
Rachel Halzel is the youth advocacy manager for Bright Future Foundation.