For a moment, I want you to take pause. I want you to take a moment and think about all of the many decisions that you’ve had to make in your life; from your toddler years up until this very moment. Some of these decisions were rather insignificant – like what you should pack for lunch that day. Some of them may have felt all-consuming at the time, but were relatively trivial – like what outfit you should wear to the homecoming dance, or where you should work for your first job. And on the contrary, some decisions may have felt insignificant at the time, but altered the trajectory of your life forever – for better, or for worse. Some of them may not have even felt like a decision; rather, an only option. One thing all of these decisions have in common is that the choices you made (or will make) are all influenced by a variety of powerful factors.
I personally had the privilege of growing up in a middle-class, two-parent household with many other adult role models. The thought of skipping class, using illegal substances, or not completing homework on time was absolutely not an option for me (many have heard the phrase, “I’ll put the fear of God in you!” – I didn’t fear God, I feared my mother!). Additionally, I was introduced to the sport of basketball at a very young age, because my family could afford to do so. This type of recreation exposed me to coaches that would become my mentors. They taught me what it meant to be a team player, and instilled accountability, responsibility, and resilience in me. Ultimately, my mentors gave me praise and support when I worked hard and experienced success. They gave me grace and guidance when I encountered failure. I had the opportunity to seek counsel from my mentors when I was faced with a difficult, sometimes life-altering decision. All of these opportunities curated the person I am today.
But what about the kids who don’t have involved parents that hold them accountable and give them praise when they do something well? What about the kids who don’t have access to mentorship opportunities provided by sports or clubs, which help teach kids what’s healthy, safe, and help to divulge life-long values? What about the kids who don’t feel cared for, leaving them to care less about themselves and their life?
There are a few things of which I know to be true in this life we live:
- Children thrive when they are surrounded by stable, consistent, and meaningful relationships with caring adults.
- You have the opportunity to drastically change a child’s life for the better by being a stable and consistent mentor and by forming a meaningful and caring relationship with them. Even if you’re not perfect (no one is), even if you personally believe you have nothing to offer (you do), and even if you’re nervous about the opportunity (that eventually goes away).
- A person is a person through other persons. My humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I lift you up, I inexorably lift myself up. When we lift our children up, we all elevate to a higher level. I am, because we are.
- Choosing to be a mentor to our local children will provide countless benefits to them, as well as yourself.
Did you know that Indiana (out of 50 states) ranks 48th in child maltreatment, 43rd in youth in juvenile detention, and 47th in children in foster care? Further, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) are stressful or traumatic events occurring in childhood and are used to assess the long-term impact of abuse and household dysfunction on later-life health. As the number of ACEs increases, there’s greater likelihood of negative well-being outcomes (such as depression, substance abuse, poor academic achievement, etc.). Nearly half (46.2%) of Indiana children have experienced one or more ACEs. Indiana children have a higher prevalence than their peers nationally in seven out of nine ACEs, which is outlined below:
|ACEs (2016-2017)||Indiana %||United States %|
|Parent served time in jail||10.0%||7.7%|
|Lived with anyone who was mentally ill, suicidal, or severely depressed||9.1%||7.4%|
|Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs||9.2%||8.5%|
|Treated unfairly because of race or ethnicity||3.3%||3.7%|
|Witnessed domestic violence||6.3%||5.3%|
|Victim or witness of neighborhood violence||4.7%||3.8%|
|Somewhat or very hard to get by on family’s income||22.9%||24.3%|
It’s true now, more than ever, that Indiana children have an undeniable need for mentorship. With the excess number of children experiencing ACEs, it’s unacceptable for our communities to solely rely on traditional therapy services to treat our children. Quality mentoring relationships help youth succeed, and research has shown that youth with a mentor experience better educational, vocational, and psychosocial outcomes than their unmentored peers. To address the significant issues our children are facing, the Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) has created various mentoring opportunities through local Morgan County middle and high schools.
With all of our success inevitably bound together – you have the ability and the opportunity to change a child’s life through the power of mentoring; taking us all to a higher level. Are you ready to take it?
Jordan McIntire is currently an intern for the Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC), working to develop the Monrovia mentoring program. She is also a recreation therapist at Bradford Woods, and is working to finish her PhD in Leisure Behavior through Indiana University, School of Public Health.