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Crowdfunder: On the hunt to discover if the benefits of mentoring at-risk youth last through their adult years

LatinaLista — Mentoring is heralded as a way to give everyone, from young people to entrepreneurs, a leg up when pursuing their dreams. There are non-profits specifically built around the concept of mentoring at-risk kids but for how long does it really help?

A group of researchers want to discover the answer to that vital question.

David L. DuBois, PhD, a professor in the Division of Community Health Sciences within the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is leading the study of the role of mentoring relationships in promoting the long-term health and well-being of youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

To do this, he’s gathering data from persons who participated in a study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program over 20 years ago while growing up. Mentoring programs are very popular and receive substantial amounts of governmental and private funding. The results of this study will help to ensure that these investments are made wisely.

For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has provided disadvantaged youth with professionally-supported 1-to-1 mentoring relationships with community volunteers. As a mentor in the program to an energetic and sociable seven-year-old boy, “Marcus”, Dr. DuBois witnessed firsthand how invaluable adult friendship and support can be for a young person faced with challenging life circumstances.

Yet, as a researcher he knows that “hard data” rules. Research conducted by himself and others has documented the short-term benefits of mentoring for young persons like Marcus in a variety of areas, such as school, behavior, and self-esteem (DuBois et al., 2011). This study asks a critical new question that has not yet been answered: “Do mentoring programs make a lasting difference that extends into adulthood?”

With millions of young people from poor families in the U.S. currently growing up without the benefit of meaningful mentoring from adults outside their families, narrowing this gap could be truly instrumental in helping disadvantaged youth better realize their full potential in areas such as education, work, health, and social relationships.

Yet, scientific evidence is needed to ensure that investments in “scaling up” mentoring are made wisely. One key question is whether mentoring for disadvantaged youth has lasting effects that remain evident during their adult years.

Dr. DuBois’ study, the first of its kind, will shed light on this question.

The fundraising goal is $10,000.

Campaign: Does mentoring have a lasting effect on disadvantaged youth?

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