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Public Safety and Mentoring: Odd Bed Fellows? Not So Much 

Susan Rich Assistant Superintendent Stanislaus County Office of Education

Susan Rich
Assistant Superintendent
Stanislaus County
Office of Education

Here’s the pitch: Mentoring actually aids and abets (Definition of abet – to help, encourage, or support someone in a criminal act). We may want to use another word here. Public Safety.

Mentoring is an effective tool for keeping students in school.

In the short run, students are excited to be visited by a caring adult who has taken an interest in them; these students, often labeled underprivileged, suddenly feel privileged. Students are at school if for no other reason than to meet with their mentors and they are not out and about, finding unsafe and possibly criminal entertainment. The National Mentoring Partnership cites on its website that “Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school.”

In the long run, students who are in school are getting the instruction they need to be more successful. Their mentors sometimes assist with reading or homework, which begets better grades and success – all leading to a greater likelihood of completing school.

“Mentoring has significant positive effects on two early indicators among high school dropouts: high levels of absenteeism” (this from a 2007 study conducted by Kennelly and Monrad) “and recurring behavior problems” (this from a 2002 study conducted by Sinclair and Johnson).

Jails are filled with a hugely disproportionate number of high school dropouts, many of who cannot read or read poorly. Mentoring can drive a positive wedge into early educational experiences and divert youngsters from going down a less than desirable path. Mentoring has a positive impact on choices young people make outside of school as well. The Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters reports that “Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.” Increased sobriety and decreased procurement of illegal substances bode well for the safety for mentored youth themselves and for their families, neighbors and fellow community members.

Researchers, Rhodes and Lowe in their report of 2008, wrote: “Children between 9 and 15 are commonly at important turning points in their lives. It is during this time that they may permanently turn off from serious engagement in school life and 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.” And this is what mentoring is all about.

There are 76 schools in Stanislaus County reporting that they have no mentoring programs in place on their campuses and they would love to rectify that. Interested? Tiffani Burns is taking names of new mentors for all of Modesto City Schools, any grade levels (209.569.2741). Sierra Vista provides mentoring for foster youth, and Ellen Hendrix is a contact person if interested in serving that population (209.523.4573). Try the front office of your neighborhood school for information. Churches frequently offer mentoring opportunities and the Mentoring Summit scheduled for January 23, offers an even broader invitation to come learn more about mentoring. For more information about the Summit, call Sierra Vista, 209.523.4573.

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