The New Year has just begun, and it's not too late to add one more meaningful deed to your list of resolutions: mentoring a child in your community. January is National Mentoring Month.
A mentor is a trusted advisor who serves to enhance a child's academic success and confidence. According to a recent study conducted by MENTOR and the Corporation for National and Community Service, three million students have active mentors, while the need for mentors exceeds 14 million.
National CARES Mentoring Movement -- founded by Susan L. Taylor, editor emerita of Essence Magazine -- focuses on connecting caring mentors to children in underserved communities. Eighty-six percent of African-American fourth-graders and 83 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders are performing below grade level in reading and math. And, 70 percent of incarcerated adults struggle with reading. So there's a high chance that grade-school students who have trouble reading will gravitate toward crime.
Socioeconomics also plays a huge role in academic achievement gaps. The majority of students who attend schools in need of improvement reside in underprivileged neighborhoods. Students at those schools who receive free lunch are eligible for free after-school tutoring, also known as Supplemental Educational Services (SES) under the No Child Left Behind Act. In February, the Board of Regents in New York state will vote to determine the future of the free program, which prepares students for state math and reading exams. If children lose access to these services, volunteer mentors will be even more valuable and vital.
Volunteer mentors devote a minimum of one hour per week to fostering a child's academic success. The return on investment is this: 98 percent of students who have solid mentors continue their education, according to the California Mentor Foundation. College students and professionals gravitate toward mentoring due to opportunities available through their schools and jobs. Mentoring groups meet across the country at churches, schools, and other community organizations to offer support and raise awareness.