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Mentoring written with wooden blocks with letters on them.

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Mentoring can make a profound impact on the lives of today’s young people. Sadly, one in three young adults grow up without a mentor. However, organizations, such as 4-H, are combating this statistic and providing many mentoring opportunities for today’s youth.

Angela Williams, an Alabama Extension urban 4-H youth development specialist, said mentoring is a critical asset to a young person’s successful path to adulthood.

“Research shows mentoring programs can have a positive impact in many areas of a young adults’ life,” Williams said. “These areas include self-efficacy, academic achievement, attitude towards school, career development and relationships with adults and parents.”

Parents Are Not Enough

Having a positive, healthy relationship with parents is a critical part of a young person’s life. However, many times other adult mentors can provide additional support to young people.

“Other adults can provide supplemental support that can bridge gaps, model positive behavior or simply reinforce positive experiences,” she said. “For example, other adults can provide financial assistance, enhance learning skills through exposure and help build a young person’s self-esteem and self-control.”

Williams said many times, adults can provide emotional support, advice and guidance in areas that may be challenging or uncomfortable for the parent-child relationship.

Successful Mentoring Programs

The foundation of mentoring is rooted in the idea that if caring, positive adults are available to young people, they are more likely to become successful adults themselves. Whether through an organization or on their own, many people have the capabilities to mentor a young person.

Williams said a sustained relationship between a mentee and a mentor is essential in mentoring programs.

“For mentors and mentees, building a relationship and keeping in touch are important parts of the mentoring process,” Williams said. “The most meaningful impacts occur among those who meet an hour or more per week, with relationships lasting one year or longer.”

During these meetings or interactions, Williams said research suggests that the mentor and mentee should engage in structured activities, as this engagement facilitates relationship building, trust and empathy.

In order to become a mentor, many organizations require that mentors:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • complete an application and training
  • obtain a successful background clearance
  • make a one-year commitment
  • meet with mentees a minimum of one hour per week or four hours a month

More Information

For more information on mentoring or mentoring opportunities through Alabama Extension, contact Williams or visit www.aces.edu.

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