Helping Mentees Be Present, Engaged, and Poised for Success!September 4, 2014 Attendance Awareness Month
For most young people throughout Vermont, this week is the first full week of the school year. September is a great time for mentors, educators, afterschool and youth center staff, and others who work with youth to think about ways to help keep students engaged in school now, and throughout the year. This month marks the second annual celebration of Attendance Awareness Month, a national campaign centered on raising awareness of the importance of school attendance. (The campaign is spearheaded nationally by Attendance Works, MENTOR (The National Mentoring Partnership) and a diverse range of other youth development partners.)
According to Attendance Works, students at every grade level who miss school, either through excused or unexcused absences, suffer academically. And those students who qualify as being “chronically absent” (missing 10 percent or more of school days) are more likely to begin a recurring cycle in which they are absent at a similar or higher rate the following school year. The first month of the school year provides an opportunity for teachers, and other adults working with students, to identify absence trends early on, and work together to address the issue, and encourage kids to attend school, and actively engage in their school community.
A mentor’s role is that of a supportive, adult friend for a young person. He or she is not intended to be a replacement for a teacher, school counselor, or parent. Instead, mentors play an important part in helping youth feel a sense of connection and belonging to the world around them. As referenced in the Attendance Awareness campaign messaging, “relationship building is fundamental to any strategy for improving student attendance.” Around half of middle and high school student respondents to the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported feeling that they did not “matter to adults in their community.” There is a plethora of research that demonstrates the positive effects of mentoring, including improved self-esteem, higher aspirations, and better relationships with peers, family members, and other adults. And according to a study by Big Brothers Big Sisters, youth with mentors are 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school. For those of you who are volunteering your time as a mentor, you may already be making a direct impact on whether or not your mentee is regularly attending school, whether or not he or she is engaged in the classroom, and if he or she feels a connection to the school community.
For mentors and all adults who interact with youth, there are many other easy ways that you can help promote school attendance:
- Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to become mentors.
- Change your Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to an Attendance Awareness campaign badge.
- Join us in sharing graphics, statistics, and quotes about Attendance Awareness Month with your friends and followers on social media.
If you’re interested in participating in the campaign, we encourage you to check out the full list of materials and links on our Attendance Awareness Month page. And if you’re a mentor, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for the important role you play, along with other adults in a young person’s life, in encouraging school attendance, positive relationships with others, and higher aspirations for the future. If you’re not currently a mentor, I encourage you to visit the Becoming a Mentor page on our website to learn more about how you can get involved. Happy Attendance Awareness Month, everyone!