First Lady Addresses National Mentoring Summit
Image of 2011 National Mentoring Summit Logo

January 2011 marked the 10th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, a large-scale public service campaign held each year to recruit volunteer mentors to help young people achieve their full potential.

On January 25, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama joined Attorney General Eric Holder and other top U.S. officials to emphasize the effectiveness of mentoring at the National Mentoring Summit held at the Library of Congress. Mrs. Obama announced The Corporate Mentoring Challenge, calling on U.S. corporations to identify ways to engage their workforce in mentoring activities that help young people in the communities where they operate gain leadership skills, achieve their educational goals, and increase their confidence.

"This is a program calling on businesses of all sizes to allow their employees to mentor for short periods during the work day, giving kids positive role models and offering employees a way to give back," said Mrs. Obama. "So many of these companies have long-standing relationships with local schools. They're connecting employees with kids who need help, whether it's in reading or writing. Others have provided grants to help build mentorship programs in areas where children often fall behind."

Companies already responding to The Corporate Mentoring Challenge include Bank of America, Deloitte, Viacom, Comcast, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, and AT&T. They are committing, within the next year, to one or all of the following: to continue building on existing mentoring programs through expansion, launching new programs, or developing new mentor tools and resources.

The summit, titled "Achieving Academic and Social Success: Supporting Youth Through Mentoring," was hosted by OJJDP in collaboration with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The summit brought together leading mentoring organizations, as well as government and civic leaders, to chart the future course of mentoring programs. Other federal officials who attended the summit included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service; and Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement.

left quoteAcross our nation, mentors steer our youth through challenging times and support their journey into adulthood ... we honor these important individuals who unlock the potential and nurture the talent of our country, and we encourage more Americans to reach out and mentor young people in their community.right quote

—President Barack Obama
Presidential Proclamation,
National Mentoring Month

The summit was designed to build on the priority set by the Obama Administration to increase the graduation rate of high school students and to keep youth out of trouble. Every school day, about 7,000 students decide to drop out of school—a total of 1.2 million students each year—and only about 70 percent of entering high school freshman graduate every year. Without a high school diploma, young people are more likely to become involved in crime and substance abuse. They also can face significant obstacles to success in the workplace. Mentoring is an effective way to prevent at-risk youth from becoming involved in delinquency and to help already-delinquent youth change their lives for the better. Research has shown that volunteer mentors can play a powerful role in reducing drug abuse and youth violence as well as boosting academic achievement. Mentors help to build young people's character and confidence and help them navigate a path to success.

Three program tracks at the summit focused on mentoring research, mentoring in the juvenile justice arena, and innovative tools in the mentoring field. The summit highlighted current research, trends, and best practices. OJJDP's Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and staff provided information on the Office's support of mentoring initiatives, which include, among a wide range of services, mentoring for youth in Indian country, reentry programs, and drug courts. In fiscal year 2010, OJJDP awarded about $100 million to national and local organizations to strengthen, expand, and implement youth mentoring activities and youth development programming throughout the nation.

Resources:

For more information about mentoring resources, go to the OJJDP Web site.