Why mentoring matters

Ask the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, and he will tell you that the difference between success and failure can be measured by one moment.

It’s that moment in high school when you found that one teacher, that one mentor who made you feel that your ideas had value and that they meant something today and could change the world tomorrow.

It takes just one mentor to be the key for many to stay on track and achieve their dreams. One mentor can increase a student’s academic success, engage them in the community and provide career development. This is consistent with the findings of a first-of-its-kind survey by the National Mentoring Partnership released this month.

At-risk young adults who had been mentored were substantially more likely to plan to enroll and graduate from college than those without a mentor (76 percent versus 56 percent).

As an educator, I saw this firsthand. Mentors matter. Mentors have the ability to change the course of a child’s life. Mentorship transforms not only the life of the mentee but of the mentor as well.

Mentors can provide economic mobility for students living in poverty, and this is what Take Stock in Children has done for nearly 20 years.

The Take Stock in Children program aims to establish a strong connection between mentors and students, breaking the cycle of poverty through education.

More than 22,000 children in Florida have been enrolled in the Take Stock in Children program. Upon selection, students and parents/guardians sign contracts agreeing to fulfill specific performance standards. Students are held to high expectations and with the guidance of advocates and their mentor are accountable for their success in the program.

To be awarded their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime- and drug-free and meet with their mentors once a week. The model that Take Stock is using is working. Their students have a 92-percent high school graduation rate, and 87 percent go on to college.

Take Stock transforms the psychology of poverty, helping people change their thinking about higher education and embrace the idea that it is attainable and can be leveraged to improve one’s quality of life. In Miami-Dade County, it’s working in a partnership with Miami Dade College and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

It only takes one mentor to make a difference.

As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, I thank the men and women who have given back, contributing their time and experience to our youth. I invite each and every one of them to experience this gift that helps make each day worth living for so many in our community.

Rebeca Sosa is chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.

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