Ten-year-old Tyrone used to be shy and rarely played with other kids his age. “And I didn’t like to smile because of my teeth, but now that I got a big brother, we go out in public a lot, I smile a lot and I don’t care what anybody says about my teeth, so I smile,” he says. The “big brother” he’s talking about is Anthony Spinola, his mentor.
A study by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America reports that confidence is just one of the benefits from having a mentor. Mentored kids are also more likely to grow up and have a four-year college degree, a job making over $75,000 a year and have more meaningful relationships with their friends and family.
And, they are more likely to become volunteers like Itoro Ufot. “A lot of people sacrifice a lot of time for me to be where I am now, and I feel like now that I’m in a position to give back, it’s probably my time,” he says.
Experts say mentors can even help kids who even have good role models in mom and dad. “The child needs someone that’s special to them. It’s someone that [they] can talk to sometimes when [they] can’t talk to [their] parent,” says Janice McKenzie-Crayton of Big Brothers Big Sisters. But before signing off on any mentor, parents need to ask questions to make sure the mentor is right for their child. “The parent ought to be told the likes and dislikes of the volunteer, the background of the volunteer, what the volunteer’s involved with, what work they do, etc.,” she says.
Discussion and Self-Reflection Questions
- According to the U.S. Department of Education, mentoring programs generally fall into the following categories: Educational or academic mentoring to help improve academic achievement; career mentoring to help develop the necessary skills to enter or continue on a career path; and personal development mentoring to support youth during times of personal or social stress. What category of mentor would you seek?
- How would you describe the perfect mentor for you? What would you hope to learn from this person?
- Teens can also serve as role models and mentors to younger children. What experiences and knowledge would you share with younger students?
- How might you identify a mentor? Is there a Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America organization in your community? What other programs might you take advantage of within your school and/or religious community?
Finding a Mentor
About the Program
A study by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America reports that kids with a mentor end up years later with more education, more money, and a better relationship with friends and family. Watch this and hear real stories about finding and being a mentor and its benefits.