While the benefits of mentorship may seem obvious, few youth mentorship programs have been subjected to controlled studies regarding their effectiveness. Surprisingly, some seemingly well-designed programs have even demonstrated negative outcomes. Mentorship is a somewhat nebulous term and, while the purpose of mentorship is clear, evidence-based guidelines on how to mentor effectively are less available.
“If it feels at times like you are at the end of your rope in reaching out to them, remember you are the rope – the very lifeline they desperately need and deserve to experience success in their lives (Breaux, 2003).” Educating Latino Boys. An Asset-Based Approach – David Campos.
One youth mentorship program for which scientific evidence does exist is B.A.M. (Becoming a Man).
B.A.M. is a mentorship program for at-risk high school boys in some of Chicago’s most dangerous inner-city neighbourhoods. We learned about B.A.M. almost 3 years ago.
Structured like a randomized clinical trial, a University of Chicago Crime Lab study found a 44% reduction in violent crime arrests among B.A.M participants, as well as a significant improvement in school attendance.
B.A.M. founder Anthony Ramirez-Di Vittorio:
“…the most important thing is you have to start with the men who lead the program. We’re looking for men who have a hybrid set of skills that is hard to find. Because we know it’s not the message.”
“The kids have heard ‘Stay in school and stay away from drugs 1,001 times.’ It’s the messenger. The clouds part and the sunshine comes through when the right messenger is there.”
“…at BAM, we’re not talking at the youth.”
“I want to be remembered for making a difference that rippled through generations. The real question and my secret is what difference that will be.” – Kudzai
Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Our Hope for the Future – Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg
“Positive, trusting relationships are the bulwark of success in work with challenging children and youth. This is not a “touchy-feely” truism but is based on a half-century of hard data from research…”
“The most difficult youth are those who create trouble rather than friendships. Successful youth workers have long recognized the…potential of turning crisis into opportunity.”
“Obedience can be demanded from a weaker individual, but one can never compel respect. In most children’s programs, it doesn’t take long to see that adults expect to be treated with more respect than they demonstrate.”
Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
“…best thing is to have disadvantaged kids spend as much time as possible in ‘environments’ where they feel relatedness, competence, and autonomy.”
“The problem is that when disadvantaged children run into trouble in school, either academically or behaviorally, most schools respond by imposing more control on them, not less.”
“Autonomy is not what one is inclined to use to manage the truly unruly kid in the class.”
“The more they fall behind, the worse they feel about themselves and about school. That…tends to feed into behavioral problems, which lead to stigmatization and punishment…” – Paul Tough
“Fast-forward a few years, to the moment when those students arrive in middle or high school, and these executive-function challenges are now typically perceived to be problems of attitude or motivation.” – Paul Tough
“One of the chief insights that recent neurobiological research has provided, however, is that young people, especially those who have experienced significant adversity, are often guided by emotional and psychological and hormonal forces that are far from rational.”
“This doesn’t mean that teachers should excuse or ignore bad behavior. But it does explain why harsh punishments so often prove ineffective in motivating troubled young people to succeed.”
Talking back and acting up in class are, at least in part, symptoms of a child’s inability to control impulses, de-escalate confrontations, and manage anger…”
Thank you for enabling us to mentor and provide academic support to many deserving youth. The young men whose photos appear in this blog post are all doing well and serve as positive male role models. We have known each of them for a number of years, in some instances since they were in grade 8, and we continue to be proud of their accomplishments.
Janet & Jim