With the fourth annual National Mentoring Summit that recently took place, perhaps it makes for a timely reminder about the power of mentoring. I am a long time advocate for mentoring and have seen first-hand the positive effects it has on children, parents, and mentors themselves.
My belief is that the well-being of every child depends on three pillars of support: the home; the school; and the community. When one of these supports is missing, dysfunctional, or inadequate, the child suffers. In too many cases, the child performs poorly in school, makes bad choices, or does not achieve his or her potential. The evidence is all around us.
In 1983 at the outset of my husband Mario's twelve years as Governor, the State was confronted with an economic recession, a large budget deficit, and a widely available, inexpensive new drug called crack. When my husband shared with me the alarming rise in the high school dropout rate, we agreed on the necessity of finding an effective strategy to encourage children to stay in school and continue their education.
Mario asked for ideas about how to ameliorate this problem, and I told him that all my experiences as a teacher, a mother, and community servant seemed to point to one solution: match every at-risk child with a caring, trained volunteer adult, with the mission of supporting the child through their academic years -- a mentor.
He agreed, and together we gathered a statewide, non-partisan committee of volunteers with expertise in all the relevant areas of child development. In 1987, the New York State Mentoring Program was established as the first statewide, school-based, one-to-one volunteer mentoring program in the country, serving children from kindergarten through eighth grade.
In 1995, after my husband left public service, the New York State Mentoring Program was discontinued by the new state administration. I was saddened by the development, but with my family's encouragement, I established Mentoring USA as a private, non-profit organization. Since 1996, Mentoring USA continues the model and mission of the original New York State Mentoring Program and currently has 20 programs in NYC for 370 youth; and eight programs nationally for 230 youth in over nine different states.
The success of Mentoring USA has been proven with improved school attendance, graduation rates and test scores. I wasn't surprised when I heard the summit organizers repeat the fact that mentors help to keep kids in school. Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.
Mentoring USA has a proven track record of success as demonstrated by the fact that 100% of mentees have moved onto the next grade level the past five consecutive school years and 72% of mentees in Mentoring USA's programs improved their attendance records.
Yet with all the success of Mentoring USA, it is still an uphill battle.
Today, in the United State about 40% of a teenager's waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision. 24 million kids are being raised by single moms and boys from fatherless homes are TWICE as likely to go to jail.
Mentoring has and will continue to make a positive difference. I know first-hand. Ely Delgado, my mentee of 25 years, survived a dysfunctional childhood, teen pregnancy, single motherhood and poverty yet she regained her self-sufficiency through education, hard work, and mentorship. Today, Ely is a proud mother herself who speaks on the value of mentoring. As much as Ely has gained from Mentoring USA, I have gained more from knowing this beautiful girl who blossomed into a loving caring individual who is now mentoring others and sharing the love and care that she was also given.
Mentoring USA is built upon the generosity of our partners. Not only have organizations supported us their monetary contributions but by also establishing employee mentoring programs for us to pair with one of our youth programs. Mentor partnerships have come from a variety of progressive and responsible businesses dedicated to involving their employees in volunteerism including Bloomingdales, Guggenheim Partners, NASDAQ, BNY Mellon, Kenneth Cole, and progressive foundations, like the Bloomberg and Open Society foundations, dedicated to creating impact and social change.
It's my hope to inspire volunteers to come join our efforts in mentoring the next generation. Mentoring is a lifetime investment in a child. Children will always remember their mentors with joy and gratitude, and mentors themselves will also have a fulfilling memory to cherish. To learn more about how you can join us, visit our website at www.mentoringusa.org.