Letter to the Editor: Increasing Mentoring Programs

With the FY20 budget season coming to a close, the six legislators at the State House serving on the Conference Committee are considering many competing funding priorities, especially for state funds that support education and youth development. With different perspectives informing state budget priorities, one critical investment that we hope can be agreed upon is support of mentoring programs through the Mentoring Matching Grants line item. This funding stream from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education supports mentoring programs across the state who work to uplift Massachusetts youth, families, and entire communities.

A study published by Wilder Research shows that for every dollar invested in effective mentoring programs, there is a return of $2.72 to the state. That comes from projected increases in lifetime earnings by giving at-risk youth a guiding hand and view to opportunities. It means they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Young people in mentoring relationships are more likely to stay in school and engage in positive social relationships, and are more ready for post-secondary degrees and the workforce. If the final FY20 budget is signed with the line item at $1,000,000 it will leverage $1,000,000 in private funding through a dollar-for-dollar match requirement.

The need for mentors remains great. Mass Mentoring Partnership recently conducted a statewide survey on the status of mentoring which showed that even with the number of youth served increasing from 35,000 to 50,000 in the last two years, there continues to be a high demand on programs resulting in over three thousand youth across the Commonwealth waiting to be matched with a caring adult.  With additional funding through this line item, mentoring programs across the state will be able to increase their capacity, directly affecting young people in need of these supports and the transcending effect they can have on positive youth outcomes.

An investment from the state of $1,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 will create and support more than 3,200 mentoring relationships across Massachusetts, including many in Boston at programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mass Bay, Boston Partners in Education, Generations Inc., and many others. Should we receive the full $1,000,000 investment in the Mentoring Matching Grants, we will build upon the success of the evidence-based “Success Mentors” model, which targets chronically absent students and connects them with a school-based mentor. In expanding this pilot with the increased funds of the Mentoring Matching Grants, we will be able to continue collecting data on the proven benefits that developmental relationships have in decreasing chronic absenteeism, truancy, and dropout rates.

Representative Aaron Michlewitz has been a long time supporter of this line item in the past and we are urging him to support the increased funding this year to make more of these relationships happen in Boston and across the state.

If you support youth and believe in the positive impact of mentoring, please take a moment to contact Representative Michlewitz and other legislators to let them know that you support an increase Mentoring Matching Grants line item to $1,000,000 as a proven strategy to connect young people with caring adults and strengthen communities across our state.  

Lily Mendez
President and CEO, Mass Mentoring Partnership welcomes commentaries on community issues through our Submit a Post online form. Opinions are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of or other writers on this site. Comments or responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.