How a mentorship can change a future

How A Mentorship Can Change A Future

There’s no doubt about it: the support of a caring adult is a difference maker. A parental figure, or mentor, helps young people focus on school, work and life. But 1 in 3 youth don’t have a mentor growing up.

A mentorship helps create a sense of stability and security in students’ lives. For example, this security helped 45% of at-risk youth with a mentor enroll in postsecondary education, like college or technical school.

Studies show that mentoring is linked to positive outcomes, such as less risk behavior, higher self-esteem, and better academic performance. Without mentorship, students are less likely to develop the self-confidence needed to face challenges throughout their education.

Through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois’ mentoring program, Erykah was matched with Jeanine during a crucial time. Erykah was bullied at school for being ‘too smart’ and was struggling with wanting to continue. During their mentorship, Jeanine showed Erykah that being intelligent is something to be proud of.  Jeanine told Erykah she was smart and that only Erykah could make her goals a reality.

There are so many young adults, just like Erykah, who need a mentor in their life. In fact, there are 16 million youth in the U.S. who haven’t had a mentor. So, how can you help? By stepping into a mentoring role with a youth in your life.

It can be hard to know where to start to be a mentor and what is needed to support youth. Follow these three steps to become a strong mentor for a youth in need.

1. Establish goals and objectives.

Before the mentor-mentee relationship begins, clearly outline what you want to achieve. This allows the progress of the mentoring relationship to be tracked – for both sides.

It’s important to be aware of how much time you can commit to the mentorship. There’s no set amount of time that equals success; the focus is more on consistency. Studies found that youth who meet regularly with their mentor are 52% less likely to skip a day of school than their peers without a mentor. Outlining what you want to achieve up front can help you manage time and priorities.


2. Create an emotional bond or connection.

In a recent study, 9 in 10 youth found their mentoring relationship to be helpful. United Way has seen some of these successes firsthand through the nonprofits in the Greater St. Louis region.

Johnathan and Adam were paired together through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri’s mentoring program when Johnathan was just 6 years old. Sometimes Johnathan would have a rough week at school and the two would meet to talk about what happened. “That was important because Johnathan needed to vent about things that he couldn’t talk to his mom about – that’s natural,” says Adam when discussing their 12-year mentorship.

3. Build trust.

In a 2017 report, 14% of mentors said respect and trust was key to a successful mentoring relationship and the most successful relationships lasted longer when trust is built over time.

Show up for your mentee and be open with them. By doing this, they can see that they can come to you for any situation and know that you’ll be there to support them. And who knows, maybe by becoming a mentor, you could also end up with a 12-year mentorship. With a strong relationship like that, there is so much to learn from each other.



In 2018, 707 children and youth were matched through two member agencies focused specifically on mentoring. See how else United Way of Greater St. Louis fosters learning.


Take action now:

  • Discover how United Way is equipping young people with the tools and skills they need to thrive as adults.
  • Share this story with friends and family! “Check out these 3 ways you can be a strong mentor from @UnitedWaySTL.”
  • Find mentoring volunteer opportunities near you.
James Taylor
James Taylor