The Mentoring Effect

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The Mentoring Effect

The Mentoring Effect is a compelling report informed by the first-ever nationally representative survey of young people on the topic of both informal and formal mentoring, as well as a literature and landscape review and insights from a variety of key leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and education. The report was commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership with support from AT&T, and written by Civic Enterprises in partnership with Hart Research.

The findings of this report are consistent with a powerful mentoring effect as demonstrated by the life experiences of the young people surveyed and mentoring’s link to improved academic, social and economic prospects. This mentoring effect is growing and, if harnessed, it has the potential to help meet a range of national challenges and strengthen our communities and economy.

The survey found that 1.8 million at-risk young adults had been matched in mentoring relationships through mentoring programs while they were growing up. In the early 1990s an estimated 300,000 at-risk young people had a structured mentoring relationship. Another 4.1 million at-risk young adults had informal mentoring relationships with teachers, coaches, extended family members or neighbors while they were growing up.

Despite this positive trend, one in three young people surveyed did not have a mentor while they were growing up. Applying their experiences to the U.S. Census demographics for 8-18 year olds, it is projected that 16 million young people, including 9 million at-risk young people, will reach adulthood without connecting with a mentor of any kind.

One in three young people surveyed did not have a mentor.

The survey also showed that with each additional risk factor a young person experiences, the less likely he or she is to connect with an informal mentor. This finding suggests a systemic shift to leverage quality mentoring programs to introduce mentors to young people who face a greater number of risk factors is a powerful and necessary strategy.


Mentoring’s Connection to Aspirations and Outcomes

The experiences of the young people surveyed showed significant positive outcomes for those who had a mentor. At-risk young people with mentors were more likely to aspire to attend and to enroll in college. They were more likely to report participating in sports and other extracurricular activities. They also were more likely to report taking on leadership roles in school and extracurricular activities and to regularly volunteer in their communities.

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Executive Summary PDF

The Power of Relationships

To see our report on adult views on mentoring, click here.

One in three young people will grow up without a mentor. This is the mentoring gap in America.

Paths Forward

With input from industry stakeholders and thought leaders, the report outlines opportunities for the public, private and philanthropic sectors to systemically integrate mentoring as a key youth development strategy. The report describes a series of paths forward that would lead to a society where all young people have access to a quality mentoring relationship and the support they need to succeed in school, work and life. The recommendations include strategies to:

Utilize mentoring to address national challenges

When mentoring is integrated into research-based reforms and interventions it can strengthen efforts to reduce poverty, truancy, drug abuse and violence, while promoting healthy decision-making, positive behaviors and activities and academic achievement.

Ensure that young people most in need have a quality mentoring relationship

Mentoring provides critical guidance to a young person on his or her path to success. But if one in three young people are reaching adulthood without a mentor, that means too many of these impactful relationships are being left to chance. We must develop and strengthen systems that identify young people most in need of a mentor and least likely to have a mentor, determine their mentoring needs and match them with quality mentors and services to meet those needs.

Expand local, state and federal public policies that advance quality mentoring

Incorporate mentoring into public policies and programs that promote education, youth development, and community service, and raise and allocate funding to mentoring programs.

Ensure all structured mentoring is quality mentoring

The broad interpretation of “mentoring” in public policies and funding programs can lead to inconsistent quality and uneven results. Through the National Quality Mentoring System, we are facilitating a structured, systematic process for evaluating a mentoring program’s implementation of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™.

Support and increase private sector engagement in mentoring

The private sector is uniquely positioned to strengthen the mentoring effort, with financial and human resources available and a strong business interest in developing tomorrow’s workforce. Companies can offer employees paid time off to volunteer, financially support external mentoring programs and set corporate mentoring goals. In return, they can see increased employee productivity, improved morale and retention, and improved public image and community relations.

Facilitate connections between research and practice

With the mentoring field’s increasingly robust research and practice base, it is important to strengthen the feedback loop between these two communities to more efficiently and effectively close the mentoring gap.

Explore innovations to close the mentoring gap

Technology and youth-initiated mentoring are two examples of innovations that have the potential to dramatically increase the supply of mentors.

Influential Voices

Influential Voices on the Implications of The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perceptions on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring

There are 6.7 million 16-24-year-olds who are disconnected from school and work. Previous research has shown that, despite many challenges, opportunity youth remain hopeful about and accept responsibility for their futures. Developing relationships with caring and supportive adults through mentoring is a key tool through which we can help these young people achieve their dreams. The promise of a generation depends on our efforts to reconnect these young people to education and career opportunities.

Melody Barnes, Chair, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, and former Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Assistant to President Obama


A high quality mentoring relationship can be a game changer for these students. We’ve seen how sustained supports from adults serving in schools as ‘success coaches’ for off-track students, and intensive wraparound supports for the highest need students, can turn around lives and help turn around schools.

Dr. Robert Balfanz, Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University


As a teacher, principal, and superintendent, I’ve seen how mentors can profoundly affect students’ lives and when integrated and leveraged by schools, can contribute to successful student outcomes. I’ve mentored young people throughout my career, as well as supported educators to establish partnerships with mentoring programs for their students. In education, we don’t give up on kids. Strong mentoring relationships can set the standard for valuing young people, and show that giving up is not an option.

Dr. Betty Molina Morgan, 2010 American Association of School Administrators “National Superintendent of the Year”

Mentoring, particularly skills-based mentoring and apprenticeship programs, prepares our future workforce by exposing young people to the world of work and developing their life skills and vocational skills which are critical to success in today’s economy.

Dr. Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce


I believe so strongly in the power of mentoring because I know the transformative effect one caring adult can have on a child’s life. That caring adult is a gateway to all the other resources that young person needs to fulfill their potential.

Alma J. Powell, Chair of America’s Promise Alliance


Our nation’s success depends on helping every child reach his or her full potential in life. We know the difference a mentor can make – AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members provided mentoring to more than 1 million youth last year. As a mentor myself, I call on more adults to inspire a young person to succeed by becoming a mentor.

Wendy Spencer, CEO, Corporation for National and Community Service


In recent decades, we have seen a growing class gap in time spent with parents, educational performance, and participation in school activities…low-income children need more time with caring adults, including mentors.

Robert Putnam, Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and author of Bowling Alone


Listen to Joe and Robin’s story about how the Mentoring Effect has improved both their lives.


Survey Responses from 18-21 year olds

Gave [him] the skills necessary to diffuse conflicts between individuals.

Helped me when I needed a friend to guide me. We have grown into a friendship, and I believe she will always be here for me.

Often it is uncomfortable to go to a parent about topics such as friendships, relationships, and drinking, but it is easier to talk to a trusted adult other than a parent.

[Having] positive role models in the community, particularly role models who were teachers, has helped me to get to where I am today. I wouldn’t be pursuing a teaching career had I not had mentoring experiences growing up.

Growing up, I often wished there was someone older that cared enough about me to spend time listening to my problems or what I was struggling with or even just what was going on in my life.

Mother was in and out of jail and was being bounced around from one house to another.
He states that “all [he] wanted or [needed] was to feel wanted and needed.”

My mother, sister, and I moved into a small bedroom at my grandparents’ house when I was a high school senior. My mother worked three jobs and was never home, and my grandparents were too old to watch after my pre-teen sister. Most of the responsibility fell on me.

Growing up I did not have a lot of super close friends I could trust and turn to. I often wished there was someone older that cared enough about me to spend time listening to my problems or what I was struggling with or even just what was going on in my life

If I had gotten an adult mentor from sixth grade to sophomore year, I would have a different life by now for sure. I ended up with more mistakes which have had their lasting consequences and left me with regrets.