We think so! And, as it turns out, the data backs us up. The results of two recent studies have contributed to a growing body of evidence that Big Brothers Big Sisters’ community-based youth mentoring programs provide significant personal, economic, and social benefits.
The first, by economics professor Phillip Levine of Wellesley College, is part of the Brooking Institute’s Hamilton Project. The proposal, Designing Effective Mentoring Programs for Disadvantaged Youth outlines several findings that illustrate the efficacy of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring programs.
Levine finds that the Big Brothers Big Sisters model includes five elements that are essential to creating long-term positive effects for youth facing adversity:
• Thorough screening of potential mentors
• Thorough screening of potential mentees
• Training of mentors
• Matches based on preferences and expediency
• Supervision of the match relationship
Levine states, “By the standards of program evaluation, the Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based program is an effective one and it should be emulated.”
The annual cost of supporting one community-based match is approximately $1,500. Levine finds, through analysis that converts grade-point averages to lifetime wages, that the economic benefits of BBBS exceed this cost by a ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore, he states that “mentoring programs are a great investment.”
The second study, commissioned by Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City and conducted by Philliber Research Associates (PRA), found statistical evidence proving that one-on-one mentoring causes a significant decrease in risk factors among youth.
After a period of 15 months in a one-on-one mentoring relationship, youth experienced a 21% decline in risk factors, including violent behavior, drug and alcohol use, and school absenteeism. Non-mentored youth over the same period experienced a 13% increase for the same risk factors.
The same study found that one-on-one mentoring has a greater impact on middle school students than high school students, and that it is equally effective for boys and girls. The first positive changes were reported after 6 months in a mentoring relationship, and continued throughout the 15-month period.
Dr. Bill Philliber, principal at PRA, stated, “This study demonstrates that mentoring has a positive impact on the lives of young people, reducing risk factors that would impede their path to success in life and giving them a chance to reach their full potential. Young people who have mentors in their lives achieve higher levels of academic success, develop stronger relationships with their peers and families, and make better choices.”