|“Together we can.”
Every parent knows that the task of raising children properly can be arduous even when both the mother and father are present in the family. When there is only a single parent, the task can be much more difficult.
According to U.S. Census data, 19.5 million children under the age of 18 lived with one parent in 2008 — 54.4 percent of black children and 21.1 percent of whites. Studies have shown that children from single-parent homes tend to have greater difficulty in school and are more likely to have more behavioral problems.
Fortunately, there are programs that have demonstrated the ability to resolve these issues. The Mass Mentoring programs have shown great effectiveness in keeping youngsters on the straight and narrow. It makes great sense, when you think about it. The mentor provides the advice and the relationship with a child, acting as a kind of surrogate parent.
The University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute conducted a study in 2004 to determine the impact of mentoring. The study required mentees to report on the changes they detected in their own behavior and attitudes. The youngsters reported that:
• Their attitudes toward school improved;
• Their relationships with parents and peers improved;
• Their ability to communicate with others increased; and
• Their self-confidence improved.
Also, those with a one-on-one mentor relationship reported an increase in school grades.
The extraordinary success of Mass Mentoring has created the impression that mentors must be overworked. Nothing could be further from the truth — only four hours a month of direct involvement are required for mentors to have a beneficial effect. Nonetheless, the demand for black and Latino mentors is far greater than the present supply.
While it is not required for the mentor and the mentee to be of the same race, it is helpful when the two can share as much as possible. As it stands, about 75 percent of those seeking mentors are minorities, but there is a shortage of minority mentors. In fact, while 75 percent of those with mentors are minorities, only 25 percent of the mentors are African American, Latino or Asian.
Mass Mentoring, an umbrella organization to assist all mentoring programs in the state, has developed a massive program to recruit more minority mentors. Their goal is to enroll 1,000 new minority mentors in the next two years. The launch party will be held Tuesday, June 2, 2009, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Ryan Lounge at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
There are no special qualifications to become a mentor. What is needed most are empathy for the challenges that confront the young and a commitment to be consistent. Few things are more damaging to a child than an adult’s failure to keep his or her promises.
In the past, efforts to establish mentoring programs in the churches and social centers of Roxbury have not been successful. Today, the lure of the streets and gang life is a constant attraction. The intervention of a caring adult can do much to ameliorate the hostile attitudes and violence in the community.
Everyone complains about the violence and the gangbangers. Volunteer mentors could be just the ones to deter our youngsters from treading down that path.