ended the year with straight A’s with the help of her mentor. In another instance, a male student being raised by his father alone showed a twofold increase in his grades and in measures of self-esteem after being matched with a female men- tor. It is expected that the JUMP evalua- tion will document a significant number of similar positive outcomes.
The research conducted by P/PV—and the preliminary reports from JUMP—pro- vide powerful evidence that youth can be positively influenced by adults who care. More important, these positive relation- ships do not have to be left to chance but can be created through structured mentoring programs.
The P/PV research, however, has even broader implications for social policy than just encouraging the spread of mentoring—namely, that practitioners and policymakers should take a new ap- proach to serving youth. For the past 30 years, society’s attention and resources were directed predominantly at teenag- ers’ problems, as evidenced by programs focusing on issues such as dropping out of school, truancy, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. With only small gains to show, the public and politicians alike have concluded, probably prematurely, that youth, even those as young as 14, are too old to be helped.
The BB/BS results suggest that, where its youth policy is concerned, society’s focus has been too narrow. What is desper- ately needed is a more positive approach that meets the basic needs of youth, espe- cially those living in high-risk neighbor- hoods, for nurturing and supportive adults, positive things to do after school and on weekends, and volunteer and work opportunities that develop skills, foster
learning, and instill a sense of civic respon- sibility. If society focuses on these basic developmental needs, youth will mature responsibly, avoid many negative behav- iors, and become more resilient in the face of inevitable setbacks.
P/PV’s evaluation of BB/BS suggests that strengthening this aspect of youth programming is likely to be more effective in producing responsible young adults than the traditional approach to youth policy, which has attempted to prevent specific problems or to correct problems that have already arisen. These tradi- tional elements will still be needed, but they should complement and support the basic developmental needs addressed by mentoring programs.
The BB/BS mentoring program did not provide tutoring and antidrug counsel- ing—it simply provided adult friendship on a regular and intensive basis. Yet it achieved improvements in school perfor- mance and reductions in antisocial behav- ior. The findings thus provide a direction for building and strengthening one ap- proach to delinquency prevention.
Dealing with the problems of juvenile delinquency, creating more positive oppor- tunities for our youth, and helping them find strong and positive adult role models in their lives are among the societal goals that can be achieved in part through the implementation of sound mentoring pro- grams. While many children are being served by these efforts already, hundreds of thousands more could also benefit from the special bond of mentoring before seri- ous problems develop.
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