Redmond, WA, November 5, 2018 – At first, it might not seem like meeting with a local student for lunch once a week can make that much of a difference. “From the get-go, my Lunch Buddy and I would do crafts together,” recalled local resident Laura Spencer, who volunteers as a weekly LINKS mentor at Juanita Elementary School. “We’d sit there quietly and do crafts and we wouldn’t talk much. And then after a couple weeks she started really opening up and sharing and just talking to me. It was just amazing how much she would share with me.”
That kind of patience turns out to be just what some kids need. Structured mentoring programs like the Lake Washington School District’s LINKS Lunch Buddies program have a real and measurable positive effect on the social, emotional, and academic lives of children.
A 2014 national survey conducted by MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, found that young people who have a mentor are more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities; hold a leadership position in a club, sports team, or other group; and are more likely to volunteer regularly in their community.
The effects of mentoring show up in academic achievement, too. Not only will young people with mentors set higher goals for themselves, but they’re also more likely to attend college than children without a mentor. The impacts of mentoring are reported most strongly by students who struggle with circumstances that would otherwise render them at risk of dropping out of school. “You could be that one thing that changes the path for them for the rest of their lives,” added Laura Spencer. But the biggest bonus? According to “The Role of Risk,” a 2013 report that examined seven Washington State mentoring programs serving 1,300 children, the strongest and most consistent benefit from mentoring is a reduction in depressive symptoms.
LINKS Lunch Buddy volunteers don’t need statistics to tell them that they’re making an impact. “When you go in, they just light up,” said Helen Keller Elementary LINKS volunteer Emily Roe. “You know that in that moment you’re making a difference with that kid individually.”
For communities looking for ways to respond to declining youth mental health, mentoring could be part of the answer. LINKS is holding training sessions for prospective adult volunteers throughout the remainder of the year. Can’t be there in person? Support someone who can by donating to the Lake Washington Schools Foundation’s Be the Difference campaign for LINKS this November.
- This is a LWSD press release