As a society, our track record with at-risk youth is not good.
More than 16 million young people “never had an adult mentor of any kind … while growing up,” according to a 2014 study. “This population includes an estimated nine million at-risk youth who will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor and who are therefore less likely to graduate high school, go on to college, and lead healthy and productive lives,” according to the study.
The same study revealed a disturbing paradox “that the more risk factors a young person has, the less likely he or she is to have a naturally occurring mentor.”
In his paper “Designing Effective Mentoring Programs for Disadvantaged Youth,” Wellesley College Economics professor Phillip B. Levine studied school-based and community-based mentoring programs. He concluded “that a traditional mentoring program of the community-based type, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, is the approach most likely to be successful in improving subsequent labor market earnings among disadvantaged youth.”
These things together paint an extraordinary picture of the vital role youth workers play in the future of children and, by extension, our future as a society. Youth workers are our best chance, sometimes our only chance, to positively impact youth whose futures are at risk.