At the “Witnessing the Dream” MLK benefit breakfast for FCHS department of athletics last Saturday, I learned that our young men at Fairfield Middle School in the Griffins Bow Tie Club can do something right now that a Nobel Laureate who changed this country could not do — tie a bow tie.
On the evening of his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Martin Luther King Jr. was getting dressed and needed help from his wife to tie his bow tie. Maybe King was in a hurry or anxious. Understandably, as he helped lead a civil rights movement, being arrested some 30 times and placing his life in danger, King had more pressing concerns than tying a bow tie.
Still, as I thought about the Bow Tie Club during January — National Mentoring Month — I realized again the potential impact this kind of outreach can have for a young person.
I’m not saying we had a future Nobel Laureate eating lunch with us and reading the poetry of Langston Hughes a few weeks ago, but we might.
I know for a fact that some of those young men tie a neater looking bow tie than I do, but I am working on it.
Thanks to a January 2014 report entitled The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring, I also know more reasons why adults in this community need to become involved in the lives of our youth.
The study considered mentoring’s impact upon youth’s aspirations and achievements as well as the impact mentoring has on the surrounding community. It involved conversations with more than 1,100 youth ages 18-21 on the topic of mentoring relationships.
The study showed:
• At-risk young adults with a mentor are more likely to aspire to enroll in and graduate from college than those who did not (76 percent versus 56 percent).
• At-risk young adults with mentors are more likely to enroll in college than those without mentors (45 percent versus 29 percent).
• At-risk young adults with mentors are more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities (67 percent versus 37 percent) and they are more likely to hold a leadership position in a club, sports team, school council or another group (51 percent versus 22).
• Young adults with mentors were more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities (48 percent versus 27).
• Youth report that formal mentoring programs provide a variety of benefits, and most commonly offer that they receive advice about school and get help with school issues and/or schoolwork.
• Mentees in informal mentoring relationships commonly offer that their mentors provided developmental, more than academic, support.
Nearly nine in 10 respondents who were mentored report they are interested in becoming mentors, strengthening the earlier finding that mentoring is linked with higher rates of leadership and volunteering.
But one in three young people – an estimated 16 million – have never had an adult mentor of any kind.
One in three.
Here in Fairfield County seven of every 10 children are born into a fatherless home. These are trends for which Tony Armstrong and J.R. Green have decided to act in the face of instead of just lament the reality.
The Griffin’s Bow Tie Club meets three times per month and more mentors are needed.
If you don’t heed my invitation, perhaps this one will move you, as it did me.
President Obama noted when he designated January as National Mentoring Month that “America is at its best when we lift each other up, when we pursue our individual goals while never forgetting that we are bound as one Nation and as one people. If we carry this spirit forward, if we take responsibility for our future leaders and give them the tools to succeed, America’s best days will always lie ahead.”
Together, we can do our part so Fairfield County’s best days also lie ahead.
Kevin Boozer is a staff writer for The Herald Independent and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.