Editors note: “A Better Life” is a weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
“Mentoring” is used a lot in the business world as a key to success. But mentoring is just as applicable to youth development as it is to career development.
Mentored youth in Big/Brother-Big/Sister programs are 46 percent less likely to use drugs. A study by Brigham Young University found that mentored youth are 50 percent more likely to attend college. 4-H mentoring programs have served over 400,000 youth in the country, with 76 percent of them reporting they want to attend college, compared to just 50 percent of non-mentored youth.
Why does mentoring have such a big effect? Oprah Winfrey said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” Youth today face a host of challenges that can damage hope for the future. But problems and risk factors don’t tell the whole story. Current prevention science tells us that risk factors combine with protective factors to determine youth outcomes.
Risk factors are things like the availability of drugs, family conflict, academic failure, or gang involvement. As risk factors pile up, it can be hard to make it through each day, let alone think about good decisions and some distant future. Protective factors can make all the difference. The positive things in a young person’s life are just as important to youth development as the challenges.
Protective factors give students the tools and resources to manage their problems. Protection can be thought of as a type of hope. Prosocial opportunities at school, rewards or recognition for community involvement, religiosity, or any positive social relationship can be protective. Mentoring is a type of protective social relationship. Mentors are encouraging and supportive. Mentoring adds a protective layer around the problems youth face. Positive relationships can help youth make healthy choices now and good decisions about their future
A new youth mentoring program will be starting at Tooele Junior High in April. It is being sponsored and paid for by a 4-H youth development grant. A total of 20 interested 7th graders from Tooele Junior High will be paired with a Toole High School mentor. The mentors will be matched to youth with similar interests.
In addition to a weekly after-school activity, youth and mentors will have monthly family fun nights. Along with mentoring, the participants will receive all the benefits of 4-H membership including activities, education, competitive events, and access to state contests. Combining positive activities, positive relationships, and family bonding is the type of comprehensive program with the power to transform lives.
4-H is an opportunity for ‘‘youth and adults to learn, grow, and work together as catalysts for positive change’’ (The National 4-H Council). If you know youth attending Tooele Junior High who are interested in connecting with a mentor, have them contact USU Tooele Extension, Health Rocks! Program Director Maren Wright Voss at 301-851-8464 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at email@example.com.