Currently, 18 million children in the United States want and need a mentor -- and only three million have one.
At a time when youth mentoring has reached a turning point in its development as a vital service for millions of American children, the University of Massachusetts Boston and the nonprofit MENTOR/ National Mentoring Partnership have partnered up to form a first-of-its-kind research institute that will support the advancement of these mentoring efforts.
The UMass Boston/MENTOR Research Alliance will create an open and efficient exchange of evidence-based youth mentoring research among researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, in an effort to build on the momentum the field has gained over the past 20 years.
UMass Boston Professor of Psychology Jean Rhodes, a globally recognized expert on youth mentoring, will serve as the Alliance’s first research director and hold the MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership Endowed Chair. Larry Wright, CEO of MENTOR, will operate as managing director and chair of the Alliance's board of trustees.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley made the announcement recently at the 2011 Inaugural National Mentoring Summit, “Achieving Academic and Social Success: Supporting Youth through Mentoring,” which brought together leading mentoring organizations and researchers, as well as federal and state government and civic leaders like First Lady Michelle Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“MENTOR’s outstanding reputation as the premiere resource for practitioners in the field of mentoring and its strong channels of communication to policymakers and practitioners alike – paired with UMass Boston’s intellectual capital – will ensure that the mentoring field maximizes its potential to improve the lives of our nation’s underserved youth,” Chancellor Motley said.
Motley stressed that improving the lives of underserved youth has always been a priority of the university, as well as a personal commitment. As a high school student, Motley attended the University of Pittsburgh's Upward Bound Program.
“UMass Boston and MENTOR have both been dedicated to positive youth development,” he said. “Together we will forge a powerful platform to bring the mentoring field to scale."
Professor Rhodes has made it her goal to help establish the study of non-parent adult relationships as a serious academic subdiscipline. She has published her findings in outlets ranging from scholarly journals to The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Her trade book, Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth, served to galvanize an emerging mentoring field. She also coauthored Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger, an authorized biography of ex-Red Sox player Manny Ramirez.
Rhodes said the center will serve as a vital bridge among students, researchers, policy makers, business partners, and practitioners-- something the mentoring field is in need of.
“Practitioners in the field of youth mentoring have been frustrated by the inefficient channels of dissemination of research, and policy leaders often act in a vacuum, issuing RFP’s and introducing legislation that runs counter to research findings,” she said. “Opportunities for funding in the mentoring space are ineffectively conceived and disseminated across multiple agencies and foundations, representing lost opportunities for vital collaborations, coordinated research, and improved practice."
“This joint center will both hasten and strengthen the exchange of information in ways that ensure that ideas are properly interpreted and implemented and more youth receive the caring support of effective mentors.”
According to a Big Brothers Big Sisters study:
- Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school
- Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs
“With 15 million children waiting for an effective mentor in their lives, there is no time to waste," MENTOR CEO Larry Wright said. "MENTOR is deeply grateful that UMass Boston is investing its resources to make the latest mentoring research readily available to all parties so we can work in concert to serve more young people in a timely way."