Guest Blog Submission by Zach Smith, Director at ManUp Iowa
When 16 million kids in the U.S. do not have access to a trusted person that they can go to for advice or guidance, we know our country faces a crisis. This should be important to every American because the societal problems that result from a lack of mentors and overall positive influences for our youth will affect every child as they grow older. Why? Because each generation’s success is connected to its overall well-being. As John F. Kennedy once said, “Our children are our future.” If children don’t have anyone to guide them through life’s challenges, how do we expect them to reach adulthood successfully? The good news is that there is a way to solve the crisis; and in doing so, save our government money and allow for every community across our great nation to be safer.
When I first became a mentor in 2012, I had been seeking a way to make an impact that was different from roles I had in the past. Because of my social services background, I understood preventative supports for youth were largely lacking in communities across the nation. Since that time, I have realized two very important things about mentoring.
- Saving tax payers money: Our state spends hundreds of millions of dollars on services for our most vulnerable populations. All though many are beneficial, they cost enormous amounts of money when there are cost effective ways to ensure higher quality services. Evidence currently suggest that mentoring is more effective than many other services when it comes to preparing youth for college, decreasing violence, increasing social, behavioral and emotional skills and much more. Strikingly, current stats show that every youth who becomes system involved will cost tax payers $1.7-2.3 million over his or her lifetime. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say 100 kids were destined for system involvement, and were referred to a mentoring program with a $100,000- $250,000 budget. How many would need to be successful to make the investment back? The answer is a staggering low number which comes out to around 1 – 3 kids depending on different factors. If more than a couple are successful however, you can guarantee the state saves millions. If you do the math, the state could possibly gain a surplus of 10s – 100s of millions of dollars if youth are deterred from the system.
- The Power of Mentoring: As Director of a local mentoring organization, I’ve been asked about how we keep kids happy and how we retain them. Although our Program has a model supported in evidenced based curriculum and preventive components that work, I’ve concluded that the most important thing for each kid’s success is not the model but the mentors who care for the youth. This is why they keep coming. This is why they get better grades and in less trouble. All of this and more is why I mentor, because if you can help a kid change his life, you can help the community become a healthier place for all. The hugs, the smiles, the positive report cards and more, all add up for me to easily conclude that mentoring may be the most important service for youth. When it comes to investing in mentoring, it may also be the most cost effective way to ensure our community thrives.
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