Growing up in a low-income community makes a teen less likely to graduate high school and significantly more likely to be exposed to and involved in overall risky behaviours.
The stresses of poverty can interfere with a teen’s ability to manage emotions, control impulses, learn, plan and problem-solve. These struggles can ultimately undermine a teenager’s ability to achieve their full potential and break the cycle of poverty.
Fortunately, mentorship can help change this.
Research has shown that a positive adult mentor can help at-risk teens overcome their adversities and transform their lives.
The transition into adulthood is filled with countless changes and challenges as youth try to figure out who they are and their place in the world.
For some youth, this transition is especially difficult as the world around them is warped by the persistent crises, stresses and hardships of poverty. Too often, their opportunities and potential are derailed by unhealthy and misguided influences in their everyday environments.
Teens need examples of and encouragement towards positive alternatives for their lives. They need role models to show them a world and a future beyond their immediate circumstances.
A mentor can show youth possibilities for a future they might not otherwise ever see or imagine. They can offer support for educational and employment pursuits they might not get at home or among their peers. They can expose them to ideas, paths and opportunities they may never otherwise encounter. Their mentorship can broaden their horizons to a future filled with possibilities.
Like any great hero, teenagers need a guide to help them navigate the trials on their quest for success. Every Luke needs a Yoda and Pocahontas a Grandmother Willow. A mentor can help a youth see the forest through the trees and teach help them find their way through it.
However, mentors do not solve youths’ problems. Instead, they empower teens with tools and strategies to successfully deal with the challenges in their lives. They offer wisdom without imposing their own beliefs. They listen. Mentors let youth think and express themselves and offer thoughtful feedback. Mentors don’t tell youth what to do, but they remind them of who they are and their ability to make the right decisions for themselves.
Because of this, teens who receive mentorship are better able to successfully plan, organize and problem-solve in a variety of situations than their non-mentored peers. Mentored teens are more likely to graduate high school, resist negative peer pressures and have overall more positive social, academic and emotional outcomes than those who do not.
All youth have within them the potential to succeed. But sometimes it takes a little push to make that happen.
Mentors know that self-doubt and hopelessness are often the greatest barriers to teens’ success. Mentors recognize these roadblocks and encourage youth towards optimism, resilience and perseverance.
The stresses of poverty combined with the developing adolescent brain can make it hard for teens to truly understand the long-term consequences of their actions. But mentors know that teens have their whole lives – a longer timeframe than most teens can truly understand – ahead of them to live out these consequences. They know that dedication and hard work will pay off in the future.
So mentors remind youth of their abilities and of the rewards that await their efforts. They give a little nudge out of apathy, confidence to reject peer pressures and a motivational boost of hope.
Give a Youth the Gift of Mentorship
At CityKidz, we want all children to reach their full potential – whatever that looks like. That’s why CityKidz has two inspiring and supportive youth mentorship programs.
CityKidz’ youth programs run 23 weeks of the year. They provide life-changing mentorship to hundreds of at-risk youth ages 12 to 17 from Hamilton’s most marginalized communities.