There are over one billion young people (aged 10-19) in the world, more than ever before. Being a teenager has never been easy. Lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and fear of the future have always been part of adolescence, but this generation is facing different challenges than those before them. A recent study by psychologist Dr. Jean M. Twenge posits that smartphones and social media are causing an increase in isolation among adolescents. Rates of cyberbullying, depression and suicide have skyrocketed among this group since 2011, prompting a mental health crisis. Technology is not the only cause, but it plays a role. Young people are also spending less time with adult family members due to changing family structures, forced displacement, or migration for education and economic opportunities. Powerful evidence in psychology and neuroscience shows that human connection is tied to our ability to thrive and succeed. Meanwhile, the teenage brain is still developing, making young people especially vulnerable to destructive behaviors such as substance use. Scientists have found that the earlier substance abuse starts, the greater the risk of it leading to substance use disorder.
One Person Can Make a Difference
We believe that having a mentor can be a transformative tool in the lives of young people. Our individual mentoring program is based on positive youth development (PYD) research that shows having multiple beneficial adult relationships is one of the primary factors that prevents destructive behavior. Mentors can contribute to a young person’s ability to increase self-esteem, develop stronger social networks thereby reducing isolation, and increase integration between different groups in society.
In all settings, caring, capable, and committed adults invested in the lives of young people- are the most important developmental assets associated with higher levels of Positive Youth Development and lower levels of problem / risk behaviors (eg substance abuse and bullying).Promoting Positive Youth Development in Adolescence, Theokas & Lerner, 2006.
In a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) evaluation of our individual mentoring program, participants found it to be highly rewarding:
89% of youth feel they have someone with whom to talk.
86% have improved self-esteem.
78% are more inspired for the future.
46% who meet regularly with their mentors are less likely to start using drugs.