By Andrea Kjaer
What one activity can reduce a child’s risk of depression, drug use and drinking while simultaneously boosting their likelihood of being in leadership roles, achieving better grades, attending college, having body positivity and increasing their financial literacy?
Studies say the answer is mentoring.
The Mentoring Effect, published in 2014, was the first-ever survey of young people’s perspectives on mentoring that was nationally representative. It resoundingly concluded that mentoring made a substantive, positive difference on young people’s personal, academic and professional lives.
One in three children do not have access to a mentor, and risk factors can negatively impact their ability to find one naturally. Luckily, here in Atlanta, there are many opportunities to help children of all backgrounds find good mentors.
Sandy Springs Education Force (SSEF) offers mentoring and STEAM activities to students regardless of their ability to pay, often subsidizing the fees for students who cannot afford to join engineering and robotics clubs. SSEF also organizes annual STEAM showcases, giving students across the school district an opportunity to put their hard work on display.
Sandy Springs Mission focuses on youth who face the challenge of being English Language Learners (ELLs) while also attending a primarily-English speaking school. With sponsors like the Comcast Foundation, they’ve been able to buy computers to help them fund their programming and tech club—providing an excellent way to learn two languages at once.
Many organizations have realized that girls thrive on female mentorship. The gender gap in STEM achievement starts young, and mentoring is one of the best ways to keep girls on track to make empowered, confident choices as they grow.
Girls Inc. is one organization that takes mentoring seriously. Their after-school program in Marietta gives girls the “necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to succeed in life and in school.”
Girls Inc.’s programming includes STEM topics, finance and confidence-building throughout the year and also via summer programs. Their goal is to reach girls “wherever they congregate,” so they also have a mobile staff that partners with similar organizations and travels throughout the nearby counties.
She Will is an organization that focuses on giving girls real-world skills that will help them succeed in business. Their Finances and Fitness Summit focuses on resumes, entrepreneurship, career exploration and practical skills like balancing checkbooks—with a little zumba on the side.
These summits draw from successful leaders and speakers from the community who serve as role models and give girls courage to aspire to greater achievement. Any organization, such as church groups, clubs, and associations can request a summit of their own.
The "Amazing" Tei Street once told our Leaders that "Every day, your walk speaks twice as loud as your talk." She's right. Guess who our girls are looking at in this photo? Swipe and you'll see that they're looking at Girl Talk Leaders–their peers, their mentors. Especially in these stressful times, this is a reminder to lead by example. Remember that your "walk" and your "talk" speak volumes and that there is always someone looking to you for direction and inspiration. ?#powerofmentorship #WednesdayWisdom #thisiswhataleaderlookslike #GirlTalkInc
Girl Talk is an organization that helps middle school and high school girls become mentors and mentees, respectively. This unique arrangement benefits both those giving the mentorship and those receiving. (Studies show that being a mentor is also rewarding.) High school girls share what they’ve learned while growing their leadership capacity by helping younger girls make their own way through their difficult pre-teen and teenage years.
Many of these organizations are seeking out qualified, enthusiastic volunteers. As a mentor, you’ll have the opportunity to remind yourself of what you’ve learned on your own journey, gain new perspectives, and make fresh connections while making the community a better place.
To learn more about mentoring, make a donation and find out how to arrange summits or events for your own organization, visit the websites of SSEF, Sandy Springs Mission, Girls Inc, She Will and Girl Talk.
Lead photo courtesy of Sandy Springs Mission.