On an intuitive level, we all know that mentoring helps young people become better people because everyone functions better when someone cares about them. We also know that everyone benefits from assistance with day-to-day challenges, especially young people. Studies show, however, that the benefits of mentors for youth far exceed what you might imagine.

School and Academic Achievement– Mentors often help students to learn study skills and gain mastery of their academic classes. A study undertaken by Public/Private Ventures and funded by Bill and Melinda Gates took a look at the Big Brother Big Sister mentoring program. And they found that students who meet regularly with their mentors were 52% less likely to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.

Social Behaviors– Mentors help youth deal with their problems and challenges. Mentors help their mentees develop beneficial social skills and thereby, raise their self-esteem. Mentors also help their mentees fill free time with productive activity. The Public/Private Ventures study showed that students who participated in a regular and consistent mentorship relationships were 46% less likely to use illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.

Depression– Almost one-in-four youth report that they regularly experience significant symptoms of depression. One of the strongest benefits of mentoring programs, according to the study, is the reduction in depressive symptoms. The mentor-mentee relationship provides positive interaction, support and meaningful role-modeling for teenagers who spend approximately 40% of their waking hours without companionship or supervision.

Good mentoring matters! Communities In Schools of Houston recognizes the importance of caring adult mentors for all children, especially those students who are at-risk. Currently, there are seven mentorship programs serving students through CIS:

BHP Billiton provides mentors at Holland Middle School.

Friends of CIS has established a mentoring program at Lamar High School.

MD Anderson Cancer Center offers the students at KIPP 3D Academy and McNamara Elementary School a mentoring program entitled Health Adventures.

Christ the King Presbyterian Church provides mentors to Houseman Elementary School in Spring Branch ISD.

River Oaks Baptist Church provides peer mentors and the City of Houston’s Human Resources has just partnered with CIS to establish their mentoring program.

Jeffrey Carroll provides mentoring to the 30 interns who participate in the Lazarus Energy Empowerment Program, which is a year-long energy internship currently including eight students from Austin and Milby High Schools through CIS. Mr. Carroll has a long history of managing mentorship programs, with over twenty-five years of service to youth through such non-profit organizations as Project I Believe; the Boys and Girls Club and Fifth Ward Enrichment Program. He says, “the most rewarding part of the mentor experience is watching kids succeed.” And he believes that the most valuable gifts mentees receive from a mentorship experience is a different perspective– the opportunity to connect with someone outside of their familiar and often limiting environment, and the opportunity to decompress.

The most important skill a mentor can possess,” says Mr. Carroll, “is the ability to listen.”

The need for mentors is enormous here in Houston. If you have an interest in becoming a mentor or volunteer, or your company would like to establish a mentorship program for youth through Communities In Schools of Houston, please visit the CIS Houston website, volunteer page here to fill out the Volunteer Application Form.

By Gina L. Carroll, CIS of Houston Board of Directors