Even for teenagers with financially stable and supportive families, high school is tough. Academic and social pressures contribute to the likelihood of a teen heading down the wrong path. But in Ross County, OH, 46% of families live in homes where their basic needs are not met (ALICE Project). Poverty imposes a cognitive load that saps attention and reduces effort, making teens less likely to engage in healthy and prosocial behaviors, like going to school, pursuing college/career goals, and participating in extracurricular activities. This is evident in our community, as many teenagers are likely to continue generational cycles of addiction, untreated mental health issues, crime, and unemployment.
The more risk factors a young person has, the less likely he or she is to have a naturally occurring mentor. That paradox leaves 1 in 3 young people growing up without a supportive adult in their lives (source). That means thousands of teenagers in our community have no idea how incredible they are or how bright their future could be.
Mentoring can flip a switch in the mind of a teen and help them discover their potential and worth, often for the first time in their lives. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. That kind of impact can inspire a teen to take action to create a future free from crime, addiction, and poverty. We also believe teens who connect with a mentor will pay it forward and mentor teens in the future, ending negative generational cycles and creating a ripple effect for positive change in our community.