What is mentoring, and why is it so impactful?

The Starfish 

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

- Loren Eiseley

The term mentor comes from ancient Greece and the time of Odysseus.  During the Trojan War, as Odysseus left for battle, he placed his son, Telemachus, under the care of his wise, old friend, Mentor. 

Today the word mentoring is used to describe any long-term, one-on-one caring relationship that exists between a supportive adult and a youth or young adult that is in need of an advocate or role model.

Mentoring programs, now found throughout the world, are designed to facilitate relationships between caring members of the community and younger proteges that would benefit from the extra time and attention that a mentor can provide.

At the foundation of mentoring is caring.  Mentoring helps simply because it guarantees a young person that there is someone who cares about them.  The child does not have to be alone through the day-to-day struggles dealing with school, family, and friends. 

Remember when you were a kid?  Did you know how to study effectively?  Were you overwhelmed or nervous thinking about college?  Do you remember the peer pressure you felt from trying to fit in at school?  The same things that we faced when we were younger are the challenges that face the youth of today.  And many of them simply need someone to cheer them on as they stumble through the ups and downs of adolescence. 

In a school-based setting, such as the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program, mentors meet with an assigned mentee while at school to help the child grow both socially and academically. 

School-based mentoring coincides with research suggesting that children between ages 9 and 15 are commonly at important turning points in their lives. During this time, children may permanently become disengaged from school life and instead turn to a variety of risky behaviors that can limit their chances of reaching productive adulthood. Encouragingly, this is also the age bracket during which preventative intervention is most successful and youth are most capable of envisioning a positive future and plotting the steps they need to take to reach their goals. They are at the right stage of development to best absorb and benefit from the skills of a strong mentor (Rhodes and Lowe, 2008).
- Information courtesy of Mentoring.org

With the help of the volunteers within our Griffin-Spalding County community, we strive to impact the following goals through our one-on-one mentor partnerships:
  • Improve academic performance & GPAs
  • Improve attendance
  • Increase college and post-secondary attendance rates/Increase productivity
  • Improve social and family relationships
  • Reduce drop-out rate
  • Reduce drug use, violence, and other high-risk behaviors
  • Reduce anti-social behaviors
  • Improve self-esteem/self-reliance

Did you know...

  • Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters).
  • Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs.  For minority youth, the impact was even stronger. They were 70% less likely to initiate drug use than other similar minority youth who were not in the program.  In addition, mentored youth were 27% less likely to start drinking (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters).
  • An analysis of mentoring program evaluations conducted by Jekielek, Moore and Hair found that youth in mentoring relationships present better attitudes and behaviors at school and are more likely to attend college than their counterparts.
  • Nearly 18 million young Americans need or want mentoring, but only three million are in formal, high-quality mentoring relationships. That means more than 15 million young people still need mentors.

How many are from our community?

- Statistics courtesy of Mentoring.org