Helping to mentor an SF public school student
Originally published in the San Francisco Examiner.
Whatever their life circumstances, every child needs and deserves to have at the very least a few caring and trusted adults in their life.
For children and youth, it can sometimes be difficult to go to family members or teachers for support. Maybe the adults in their lives are too busy or difficult to talk to. For some, making friends with peers is challenging so they rely even more on adults to help them build the social skills and self esteem that can lead to more peer friendships.
It’s National Mentoring Month and a chance to share my gratitude that here in San Francisco several great community organizations recruit, train and support mentors who support our City’s youth. We even have a mentoring program run by SFUSD that’s comprised mostly, though not exclusively, of SFUSD employees who commit to mentoring a student.
This week we will be honoring 10 outstanding mentors in an event sponsored by LinkedIn and January 31 is Thank a Mentor Day.
The benefits of mentoring extend beyond the person being mentored. Adults who want to make a significant impact on the life of a child should really consider becoming a formal or informal mentor. We believe mentoring is so important that at SFUSD we began our own program called Mentoring for Success to match caring adults with youth in need. We provide trainings, ongoing support and of course background checks.
By becoming part of a community of mentors and mentees, mentors help build social capital and leadership experiences with youth. They help them become part of their community and navigate the day-to-day joys and challenges of life and school. Mentors help build a sense of school belonging for students who may otherwise feel alone or alienated.
For instance, I know one mentor who spends her weekly sessions with her mentee playing literacy games together and reading to her mentee along with serving as a stable and caring role model. Her mentee lost her mother this year so you can only imagine how extra important having a mentor must be to this child.
Another mentor is not only building a positive relationship with her mentee, but with her mentee’s family as well. They even attended the SF International Hip Hop Festival together, mentor, mentee and family members.
Right now around 700 out of 54,000 SFUSD students are matched with a mentor through our SFUSD Mentoring for Success program. While we don’t have a count, I imagine a few thousand more students are matched with mentors through one of the many awesome community based organizations in our City.
But there is still great need. Thousands more students could benefit from mentoring. Students with mentors say their mentor helps them do better in school, makes them feel safe, and makes them feel like they can depend on their mentor. In fact, after just one school year of being mentored 20% more secondary students report a positive sense of safety then the general student population.
Every child needs caring adults in their lives and every day students across San Francisco ask to have a mentor. With more community volunteers, we could offer even more youth this highly sought-after support.
Ways to Support Mentoring
Become a Volunteer Mentor
Sign up to start as a mentor: http://bit.ly/MentorInSFUSD
Become a paid Healthy Choices AmeriCorps Mentor
Help mentors and students get out into the community together
Contribute tickets to your favorite activity, museum or sporting event by sending them to: Mentoring For Success, SFUSD School Health Programs, 1515 Quintara St SF, CA 94116