For the nation to maximize the potential of mentoring as a form of ‘bridging social capital’ non-school, site-based, tutor and mentor programs need to be available in more places. Furthermore, they need to be supported with on-going flows of dollars, talent and volunteers.
In many high poverty areas of big cities, these programs serve as islands where people from beyond the neighborhood can connect with youth and families in the neighborhood, and build shared understanding and empathy that leads some volunteers to move beyond thinking of their mentees as “other people’s kids” to thinking of them as “our kids”. This only happens as a result of regular contact between youth and volunteer over many weeks, months and even years.
However, in Chicago, and I suspect in other cities, too few mentor-rich, long-term programs exist. Too many high poverty areas have none of these programs. Too few leaders are creating a master data-base of existing programs, segmented by age group served, type of program (pure mentoring, pure tutoring or combination tutor/mentor) and zip code served, which is essential for any on-going marketing effort intended to make good programs, and long-term mentoring, available to more k-12 youth.
I’ve been advocating for support of such non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago in 1994 and I share ideas that others can apply to help make such programs available in more places on the http://www.tutormentorexchange.net web site.
When people say “it takes a village to raise a child” I respond that “everyone in the village needs to take a role”.