Huffpost Impact
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gerald Chertavian Headshot

Improving Opportunity for Youth Through Mentoring

Posted: Updated:

On Monday, Opportunity Nation -- a bipartisan national coalition of more than 250 organizations, businesses, schools, and others that are dedicated to restoring social mobility in America -- launches its Week of Action across the country with a National Day of Mentoring. Throughout this week, ON will theme days around pieces of its Shared Plan for Action; we at Year Up are proud that the very first day is tied to an action so close to our hearts: mentoring.

From our earliest days, mentors have formed an integral component of our students' experiences in the program. Mentors provide professional networks, outlets for frustration, college and career counseling, general life advice, and most importantly, an extra voice telling a student they are smart enough and capable enough to cross the stage at graduation and land their first paycheck from a career pathway job. Mentors are at the heart of what both Year Up and Opportunity Nation are all about: lending a hand to expand opportunities for hardworking and motivated young people like Hanjy Charles, who needed only a chance to prove herself and committed adults who believed in her potential. Hanjy excelled during her internship at Citi, and earned a full scholarship to study business administration at St. John's University, where she is now a full time student.

Thanks in no small part to mentors, alumni like Hanjy have gone on to incredible success after our program: within four months of graduation, 84% are working or in school full time, and those working earn an average of $15/hour (or $30,000/year for salaried employees). Collectively, they are shifting perceptions in our country about who is talented and proving that our young adults, regardless of what side of the Opportunity Divide they may have grown up on, are economic assets to this country.

That shift in perceptions cannot come quickly enough. As we say at Year Up all the time, investing in our young people is not just a matter of economic justice. It's good business sense. Despite millions of job vacancies, 6.7 million young adults remain disconnected from work and school. Economists have calculated that each one of these young adults will cost taxpayers an average of $14,000 this year, and $437 billion over the next five, if they are not reconnected to the workforce. And our companies need them - our economy faces a shortage of millions of skilled workers by the end of this decade. That's why Year Up's corporate partners invest so heavily in the pipeline of talent that we offer. Given the chance to access skilled and talented interns, our partners regularly come back to us asking for more.

That fact is a testament to our students and their hard work. But it's also a testament to the mentors who help prepare them for their internships and for the job market. As we work to expand opportunity in this country to the 6.7 million young adults in need of it, mentors will play a pivotal role.

In most of Year Up's 10 cities, we are still accepting applications for prospective mentors for this fall. Mentoring at Year Up is a one year commitment, entailing weekly communications and monthly meetings, beginning in November (in most of our sites). Please stand up for social mobility and Opportunity in your city by joining us as a mentor for this class, and inviting your friends and colleagues to do the same. To learn more, visit www.yearup.org

This post is part of a series produced by Opportunity Nation for The Huffington Post in conjunction with their Week of Action, a seven-day collaborative exercise demonstrating that every American can play a role in the shared effort to restore opportunity and social mobility in our country. More information is available at Opportunity Nation.