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Ann O'Brien Schmieg

By Ann O'Brien Schmieg

The Drop-Out Crisis: Mentoring Can Help

Fri, January 11, 2013

The Drop-Out Crisis: Mentoring Can Help

Like many teen-aged girls, I found gainful employment as a babysitter. Mrs. O was my employer. Every time I received my report card, I knew that after I showed it to my parents, I had to share it with Mrs. O too. Mrs. O always expected me to get good grades. She cared about me and believed in my success. I didn't know it then, but now I realize that she was my mentor.

Each year, thousands of high school students in our region drop out of school and put their futures at risk. Once first, the U.S. is now 21st among industrialized nations in its high school graduation rate, with more than 7,000 students dropping out of school every year in our region.

One of the most effective ways to tackle this crisis is by identifying the students most at risk of dropping out – which we can do through early warning indicators – and then by building academic and social supports to help those students stay on track to graduate high school, college and career-ready. On December 31, 2012, President Barack Obama once again declared the month of January National Mentoring Month. Mentoring relationships not only provide care and friendship for young people who may not receive those supports elsewhere, but also one-on-one guidance for academic and social success. Studies have shown that youth in mentoring relationships are less likely to skip school, become violent, or begin using alcohol and illegal drugs.

Just like Mrs. O inspired me to show her my report card, thousands of young people in the region can improve academically as a result of their participation in United Way sponsored mentoring initiatives. I learned education is 24/7 and doesn’t end when the school bell rings. Community engagement is crucial; join in the conversation on Twitter using #nationalmentoringmonth and get involved today to make a difference in the life of a young person. It made a difference for me. Who inspired you when you were a teenager? Who expected you to excel?