Mentors' encouragement can change lives
BY KATHY TAYLOR
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 4:30 AM
Mentoring matters. It sounds simple because it is. All you need to do is give your time to a child in need - even if it's just one hour per week. You don't have to be perfect, just be there. Be a listening ear, a positive attitude, a helping hand, a friend.
January marks National Mentoring Month and the beginning of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence's Year of Mentoring. On Jan. 16, we celebrated Oklahoma Mentor Day at the Capitol and recognized outstanding mentors from across our state.
We also set a goal to recruit more mentors across Oklahoma to make a difference in their communities.
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence launched the David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative in 2006. The initiative promotes the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs statewide.
The foundation works with school districts, businesses, faith groups and mentoring organizations across Oklahoma to promote mentoring as a positive step toward academic excellence. The foundation also provides training and networking opportunities for all mentoring programs and encourages programs to follow established standards for safe and effective practice.
Research shows us that mentoring works. A Pew Public/Private Ventures study shows children who've had a relationship with a mentor for 18 months or more are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs and 53 percent less likely to skip school. They were more confident in their performance at school and getting along better with their families.
We know that mentoring accomplishes these goals: reducing the high school dropout rate, increasing school achievement, creating a more prepared workforce and overall, an improved economy.
But more meaningful than the statistics are the personal stories of children who are changed for the better by having a positive influence in their lives.
As mayor of Tulsa, I saw firsthand how mentoring can change a child's life course for the better. At the time, our state saw an increase in juvenile crime and had a high dropout rate. In order to find solutions, our city hosted the Building a Safer Tulsa Summit. One result of the summit was the Mayor's Mentoring to the Max program, which pairs youth with positive adult role models to enhance their lives and education.
Since 2007, that program has reached more than 700 elementary students in 18 community schools. We were able to recruit 500 mentors and place them into schools to work with students. The teachers were ecstatic about the results, the students showed improvement and the mentors were thrilled with their experience.
One personal story of a life changed by mentoring comes to mind. A woman approached me at a public event during my time as mayor and opened up to me about her son, who was enrolled in a mentoring program with a local business. With tears in her eyes, the woman explained how she had been unable to give her son the attention he needed, due to personal issues in her life. Because of the time he spent with the mentors in this program, she was proud to tell me that he was starting college the following week. The time this young man spent being mentored gave him the confidence, courage and support he needed to get through high school and go to college.
All of us can make a difference in the life of a child. Mentoring a child impacts their life, your life and the future of our state. Consider taking one hour a week to spend time with a child in need. Opportunities for mentoring through various programs are available on the Boren Mentoring Initiative website at okmentors.org or in Tulsa by calling 211.
Giving your support and your voice to a child in need will inspire them to achieve. It just might inspire you, as well.
Kathy Taylor is a former Tulsa mayor, a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and a supporter of the David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative.
Kathy Taylor: Giving your support and your voice to a child in need will inspire them to achieve. It just might inspire you, as well.