Friday, January 8, 2010

National Mentoring Month - Do Yourself a Quick and Easy Favor!

Did you copy and paste that email I wrote for you yet, sending it to people you know who are concerned with crime, education, and workforce development in Chicago?

Please make no mistake, I'm not asking for a favor here... You're helping yourself. But don't take my word for it...

See, it's National Mentoring Month... below, I explore findings and thoughts from influential businessmen and politicians (Democrats and Republicans). They too have done the research and are sold on the fact that YOUR small commitment... light reading, a few hours of volunteering when you can... and (importantly) occasional dissemination of information throughout your email, Facebook, Twitter networks... can make YOUR world better.

Just as I am trying to do on this blog, State Farm Chairman and CEO Ed Rust asks his people "to take action in their communities by sharing information about the campaign [to address the dropout crisis]with friends and family, working with a school or nonprofit organization in some capacity, or becoming a mentor."

Why does a businessman care about dropouts or mentoring at-risk students?

“As a business leader, State Farm knows first-hand that graduation is a critical first step to future success for our students and future prosperity for our nation.”

Need stats? They got em:

"Experts say that dropping out of high school affects not just students and their families, but the country overall – including businesses, government and communities. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the Class of 2006-07 will cost the U.S. more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes."

Perhaps this explains why politicians are beginning to look at mentoring programs in earnest.

The late Senator Ted Kennedy introduced and passed legislation in 2007, encouraging "more organizations across the Nation, including schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations and faith institutions, foundations, and individuals to become engaged in mentoring."

From the text of bill S. Res. 61 [110th]:

* "Research provides strong evidence that mentoring can promote positive outcomes for young people, such as an increased sense of industry and competency, a boost in academic performance and self-esteem, and improved social and communications skills."

* "Studies of mentoring further show that a quality mentoring relationship successfully reduces the incidence of risky behaviors, delinquency, absenteeism, and academic failure."

* "In spite of the strides made in the mentoring field, the Nation has a serious 'mentoring gap,' with nearly 15,000,000 young people currently in need of mentors."

Arne Duncan, whose experience has taken him from Chicago's Public Schools to Washington, D.C., as President Obama's Secretary of Education, responds to those who would suggest, "This is not my problem. Their parents should help them," by reminding that not all kids HAVE positive role models or parents with the ability to help them reach their potential, for the benefit of us all.

Instead the reality is that "all adults share this responsibility, whether it's teaching ... lessons to their own children or someone else's. It starts with parents but it continues with others: teachers, coaches, mentors and friends."

And these realities are not just those of the liberal left. California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is among those conservatives who see mentoring as vital to America as a whole, not just a "short-term, charitable, feel-good luxury, when time allows."

As early as 2004, Schwarzenegger proclaimed that "Mentoring partnerships between business and education provide a vital channel for businesses to support young Californians in their communities."

More stats that might concern you?

The Governator tells us: "Research has shown that student mentoring programs increase attendance and improve academic performance. Mentored youths are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to experiment with drugs and 27 percent less likely to drink alcohol.

Sound good? Look, these problems are complex and will take years of thinking and strategizing by many people in many different places over a long period of time. Is mentoring the whole answer? Probably not, but clearly there are economic, academic, and social advantages to mentoring, with likely negative consequences for all of us, if people like us do not start using our social networks to, at minimum, raise awareness among those who might be (or know someone) in a position to mobilize business or political resources on behalf of addressing our common economic and social issues.

That's a mouthful, huh? Well, fortunately, here's the beautiful thing: It's easier done than said!

YOU are in a position to do something at little or no cost, to join with millions of others who are helping students now, so we all live in a better tomorrow.

Start by reading my last blog and taking 5 minutes to copy and paste that email... in hopes we can reach everyone we know that wants to help us in our mission.

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