Changing lives, one mentee at a time

I was very close to not graduating from high school. You might be curious as to why? There is no simple one word answer, but various different factors that threatened my educational success. Education was always encouraged and good grades were always expected. I was in a college prep program called PUENTE all throughout high school. Freshmen through junior year, I performed well academically, but during senior year there was a change. I began ditching classes, not caring about my grades, picked up a second job and put my education on the back burner. Fortunately for me, I had a great support system at school as well as at home. Thanks to my mentors and positive role models, I went from almost not graduating high school, to now pursuing a master’s degree at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, USC.

Luckily, my story is not nearly as bad compared to others, who have not had a positive outcome. Individuals, who are part of the epidemic of high school dropouts throughout the nation, do not have any positive role models in their lives to guide them on the path to success. Many underestimate the power a mentor can have on an individual’s life. The issue is the lack of available qualified mentors. This is a very important issue affecting the at-risk youth in the community. When youth have the opportunity to have a mentor it can become a life altering experience. Not only, can having a positive role model provide support and structure, but it can also make the difference in their academic success. According to Roberta Furger, on average high school graduates earn $290,000 more than dropouts over the span of their lifetime. Graduates are also 68% less likely to rely on public assistance and there is a 20% reduction of violent crimes among those who graduate. These numbers alone should really motivate decision makers to come up with a solution to this problem, because it could save the nation millions of dollars.

As citizens there is something we can do to end this growing epidemic of youth not succeeding. Proposed federal legislation H.R. 541 Transition-to-Success Mentoring Act would work on correcting this issue. The bill is being reintroduced by Democratic Congressman Andre Carson who represents the 7th district in Indiana. This bill will offer vulnerable middle-school students with individualized attention to help overcome the challenging transition from middle school to high school, and lead them on the right path to college.

The bill proposes that designated agencies be awarded grants to create and establish mentoring programs. The plan is to assign a success coach to work with each at-risk student and create an individualized success plan. The success coach’s fundamental role is to help the student succeed by serving as an advocate between the student’s parents and teachers. It also authorizes funds be utilized to train successful coaches, cover the cost of mentoring program materials, and employ staff to perform or support program goals.

I urge California residents to learn more about the bill by visiting https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr541. Here you will find the reasons why this bill is so beneficial to the at-risk youth. But do not stop there! Contact your local elected officials to gain support and help pass this bill. This is your opportunity to speak up and create positive change for millions of at-risk youth who need a mentor in their lives.

Erika Garcia is a USC Masters of Social Work candidate. She resides in Norwalk.

 

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Published: May 21, 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 06