In celebration of National Mentoring Month and the launch of In Real Life, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) has chosen to recognize those who have demonstrated a deep commitment to delivering critical connections to our nation’s young people to aid them in achieving success at home, school and ultimately in the workforce. This blog series will feature weekly posts throughout the month of January, and focus on an individual’s proven commitment to youth mentoring and the powerful impact it has had for youth in real life.
Friends of the Children founder Duncan Campbell has dedicated much of his life to improving the lives of young people through mentoring. His quest is rooted in a personal history that binds him to these children, and drives him to advocate relentlessly on their behalf.
The product of a childhood marked by neglect and disappointment, Campbell grew up in an impoverished and crime-stricken neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, and like many other children in the area, was often left to fend for himself. Determined to build a life for himself despite his challenging upbringing, Campbell got through college on scholarships and part-time jobs, eventually earning degrees in finance and law from the University of Oregon.
Following a successful career in the corporate world, and wanting to reach back to help other children growing up in circumstances like his, Campbell commissioned a two-year research project to identify the best way to create real change in a child’s life. Based on the findings, he established Friends of the Children in 1993, hiring three salaried, professional mentors to serve 24 children in the neighborhood he grew up in.
An organization that matches committed mentors with children from high-risk communities, Friends of the Children has expanded to six additional sites and now impacts more than 1,400 young people across the country and overseas.
“The real power of mentoring is the positive outcomes for the children, as evidenced by third party based data and research,” Campbell said.
The program sets three core goals for every child: succeed in school, avoid criminal behavior, and avoid teen parenting. According to third-party evaluations, results have been tremendous: Today, 83 percent of program graduates have earned a high school diploma or GED, 93 percent have avoided the juvenile justice system and 98 percent have avoided early parenting.
The program’s success and the success of its graduates is due in no small part to Campbell’s dedication and commitment to our young people and to ensuring they reach their full potential. There is a real life impact on the lives of the children involved that has a ripple effect in the communities they call home.
Campbell has been a role model for social entrepreneurs in the field of scaling impact through mentoring, and in 2009 won the Purpose Prize by Civic Ventures for his passion and innovation in finding solutions to social problems through encore careers.