This blog post, originally featured on the Young Education Professionals blog was written by Ben Cooney, Bolder Options’ Academic Support Specialist.
Mentoring has long been touted as a solution to a number of problems for youth, including drug and alcohol use, gang prevention, teenage pregnancy, low self-esteem, and poor social skills. But does mentoring affect academic performance? Can it complement traditional classroom learning? The answer is undoubtedly, seen it with my own eyes, no question about it, Y-E-S. I joined Bolder Options mentoring program as the Tutoring Coordinator five years ago. In that time, I have seen the impact mentoring can have on academics over and over again.
When I first joined Bolder Options, I was charged with running an after-school tutoring program for youth 10-14 years old. Some of the youth in my program had mentors in Bolder Options, some did not. All of the youth made huge academic gains, some upwards of 300% increases on their test scores. But of course they did, right? This was a tutoring program after all. But every day while I ran the tutoring program, I watched as the youth in our mentoring program made academic gains on par with the youth in my tutoring program. How was this possible? Youth in my program were working on an academic program focused on research-based intervention strategies, while youth in the mentoring program were hanging out with their mentors, cooking, running, biking, going to the water park, and rarely (if ever) working on homework together. So why were they doing better in school?
The answer lies in character building. Maybe youth with mentors don’t focus specifically on academics. But what does it take to succeed academically? It takes dedication, goal-setting, good sleep and nutrition habits, maturity, responsibility, and motivation. These skills are exactly what a mentoring relationship is for, specifically a relationship developed in Bolder Options. Bolder Options mentoring program focuses on healthy habits, goal-setting, physical activity and nutrition, and healthy relationships. When youth improve these areas of their lives, academics are sure to follow.
Case in point, when a young man named Trenton joined Bolder Options just over a year ago, he was failing most of his classes and consistently truant. Trenton and his mentor Travis got together once per week to hang out. They spent the first two months playing sports and attending Bolder Options activities including sledding and physical fitness activities. At the two month mark, Travis reported that it was a challenge for him that Trenton still wasn’t opening up very much about his life and he felt he was having trouble breaking through to him. Shortly after, their relationship had to take a pause because Trenton was sent to a detention center for stealing and his mom decided he couldn’t do physical activities anymore because he wasn’t doing his homework. This sparked something in Travis. Once out of the detention center, Travis began to talk to Trenton more about school and his future. He even helped Trenton with his homework a couple times. With Travis by his side, Trenton quickly began to turn his life around. He stopped stealing, started finishing his homework, and by the end of their year in Bolder Options, he finished school with a 3.3 GPA.
Trenton’s story is remarkable, but it isn’t unique. Travis helped Trenton with his homework a handful of times throughout the year, but more importantly, he helped him build his character and confidence. He taught Trenton that school isn’t just about 9-4 Monday through Friday; it affects your life every day, all day, for the rest of your life. Even when a mentor and mentee don’t spend a single second working on homework or academics, they are still working on incredible life skills that translate to a better performing student and scholar.
Mentoring can indeed change academic performance.
You can be a part of a young person’s success story. Find out more about mentoring with Bolder Options today!