MENTOR Vermont believes that every young person in Vermont who wants a mentor should have that opportunity, from their early school years until they successfully enter adulthood. The K-12 Mentoring Initiative is a multi-year project, in collaboration with direct-service mentoring programs, to create the statewide infrastructure needed to turn this vision into a reality.
Based on a 2014 study by MENTOR, one in three young Vermonters will enter adulthood without having a structured or informal mentor in their lives. The 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test results revealed that low-income students in Vermont (as a group) did not meet proficiency standards in any subject or grade level. And, according to the Vermont Agency of Education and Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, while nearly 75% of seniors aspire to attend post-secondary education, only 59% end up enrolling. Based on data from the McClure Foundation, only 37% of youth living in poverty pursue additional education after high school.
National research from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America shows that youth matched in a formal mentoring relationship for at least 18 months are 52% less likely to skip a day of school, and 55% more likely to go on to college. According to the 2017 Vermont Mentoring Surveys, more than 74% of mentors report playing a direct role in their mentee’s education.
With MENTOR Vermont’ support, the more than 140 adult-to-youth mentoring program sites in Vermont are making significant progress in addressing the mentoring need, as of today ensuring that around 2,300 young people are receiving the benefits of having a mentor. Still, the gap remains large–MENTOR Vermont estimates that there are more than 15,000 youth in the state who are in strong need of mentoring services.
There are four primary barriers preventing youth in Vermont from having the opportunity to be matched with a mentor through high school and beyond:
- A scarcity of mentoring programs in more rural areas of the state (such as the Northeast Kingdom)
- In areas that do have mentoring programs, a lack of program options for older youth
- In parts of the state that have programs that serve younger youth and others that serve older youth, the lack of an organized system for transitioning matches from one program to another
- A lack of capacity for existing programs to take on new mentees or support matches that transition from another program
Since 2015, MENTOR Vermont has been partnering with more than 20 mentoring agencies and 100 mentoring program sites that MENTOR Vermont supports financially to begin turning the K-12 vision into a reality.
Since 2015, MENTOR Vermont has formalized and expanded collaborative partnerships between mentoring programs to allow mentor matches to transition from one program to another, so that mentor matches do not end simply because a young person moves or ages out of a program.
The more than 100 youth mentoring programs in the Initiative currently support around 1,800 one-to-one mentor matches, with more than 90% of youth served living in poverty. While these programs are providing invaluable services, given the large number of at-risk youth who are not being mentored, there is a critical need to establish new programs and increase the capacity of existing programs.
In 2018-2019, MENTOR Vermont will continue to support the growth of school-based mentoring programs in three school districts that previously supported mentoring only through middle school. MENTOR Vermont is also looking to increase the capacity of community-based mentoring programs that support youth through adolescence. Additionally, MENTOR Vermont will work with all partner agencies to facilitate transitioning of mentor matches between programs, and the growth of all existing mentoring programs that serve middle and high school students. Lastly, MENTOR Vermont is exploring the possibility of launching new programs in underserved areas of the state.
MENTOR Vermont will continue to develop and enhance resources for mentors to help address the post-secondary gap. By providing mentoring program staff and mentors with specialized training and resources, MENTOR Vermont hopes to help youth identify career opportunities that match up with their interests, and the post-secondary education required to pursue them.