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January is National Mentoring Month and the Power of Mentoring

The power of mentoring is more far-reaching than many people realize. Mentors play a vital role in helping our community thrive. For example:

  • Young adults with a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college than their peers without a mentor.
  • Mentored youth have better attitudes towards school resulting in improved attendance, and an increased probability of going on to higher education.
  • Mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Mentored youth trust their parents/guardians more and communicate better with them.
  • Young adults with a mentor are 55% less likely to skip school; 78% more likely to volunteer regularly; 90% more interested in becoming a mentor; and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.

For so many of our youth, the gap is not in potential or ambition, but in opportunity and lack of a positive role model. The Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance exists to fill that void.

Mentee Erwin is a 13-year-old Latino youth and an avid soccer player who lives with his six siblings and hard-working parents in a two-bedroom apartment in Sonoma. Before the pandemic, Erwin was a good student who consistently brought home straight A’s. When schools shut down last Spring, Erwin and his three brothers spent months crowded together every day on their shared bunk beds, using cell phones to do their schoolwork with inconsistent internet access –  far from the ideal learning environment.

Erwin’s reading level began to decline, and without organized soccer, Erwin is also missing out on vital social-emotional learning opportunities that playing on a team provides, including persistence, resilience, and hope – lessons that have been shown to lead to better grades, lower drop-out rates, and better physical and social-emotional health.

Thankfully, his mentor Jim is committed to stepping up to help Erwin and his family and is supported by the mentor center facilitator at Erwin’s school as well as by our skilled coaching staff. Without encouragement from a mentor, Erwin’s grades would not be improving again, and he could potentially become one of those students who “falls through the cracks”.  When asked what he liked about Mentoring, Erwin’s response was simple, “That we get to spend time with mentors, go for walks and have fun.”

Although the mentoring needs of our young people are not being fully met, for those with quality mentors, there is a powerful effect on their life trajectory. The consistent, enduring presence of a caring adult in a young person’s life can be the difference between staying in school or dropping out; making healthy decisions or engaging in risky behaviors; and realizing one’s potential or failing to achieve one’s dreams. Mentors can make a profound difference in the lives of their mentees — and in turn, strengthen our communities, economy, and country. The stakes are high, and we are encouraged to find that young people’s experiences with mentoring provides powerful and complementary benefits. Young people with mentors, especially more vulnerable youth, have more positive visions of themselves and their futures, and they also achieve better outcomes in school, the workplace, and their communities. 

January is National Mentoring Month, but there is no time limit on the relationships built within the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. This month we shine the spotlight on mentorship and its benefits, and our banners fly on the light posts around the Sonoma Plaza. We believe in the power of relationships, and we know that change happens in both big and small ways and it is important to celebrate the journey.

The end of the pandemic may be on the horizon, but its impact on mentoring will be felt for some time. For a program that has run successfully for 25 years, this has been a time for re-imagining, digging deep, and persevering. It has also been a time of utmost gratitude for this community that consistently goes above and beyond for the Mentoring Alliance. We believe in the potential of young people, and that doing so has the ability to lift up entire communities. It’s all about taking that first step. Are you ready to mentor?

Susie Gallo, Executive Director, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance

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