The benefits of mentoring kids
When the United Way Williamson County began its initiative in 2008 to ensure local students graduate from high school on time, they immediately saw mentorship as a promising part of the equation.
“There’s a lot of research out there that shows mentorship improves a mentee’s self-esteem, improves their classroom behavior, increases their interest in school, and improves their relationships with adults and peers,” says LeAnn Powers, chief professional officer of United Way of Williamson County.
Indeed, according to a study conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, children with mentors are
- 52% less likely to skip school
- 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 37% less likely to skip a class
Because of the profound difference mentoring can make in the lives of children, United Way works collaboratively with 12 Williamson County school districts to help raise awareness and attract more mentors.
Their efforts are paying off. During the 2014–2015 school year, approximately 1,060 mentees and 960 mentors were enrolled in the GISD mentorship program alone—more mentees than mentors because some people mentor multiple students.
“Our program is one of the largest around,” says Laura Antoine, director of the GISD mentorship program. “We’re fortunate. Georgetown is unique in that we have a large number of committed and caring individuals who are able to volunteer as mentors. We have retired people, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home parents, Southwestern University students, and several local businesses, congregations, and neighborhood home-owners associations that have generously ‘mentor adopted’ Georgetown schools because they want to help our youth.”
Also contributing to the success of Georgetown’s mentorship program is the frequent encouragement and support given to mentors.
“One of our mentors’ and mentees’ favorite things that we do each year is our annual Mentor Movie Night,” says Laura. “It’s a fun-filled night where mentors and mentees can watch a movie on the big screen together while they’re treated to popcorn, hotdogs, and drinks.”
Since the mentor/mentee relationship is typically confined to GISD school property, the night out together gives mentors and their mentees a special opportunity to step into a more relaxed setting, laugh together, and build their relationships.
“The seeds you leave behind as a mentor, they grow on forever,” says Laura. “The impact you can have on children is not just this year, this month, this week. It has a profound impact that can last a lifetime.”
For more information on mentoring, or to sign up to be a youth mentor, visit mentorinwilco.org.