In honor of National Mentoring Month, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy hosted a roundtable discussion at the YWCA Thursday with local mentors and mentees to talk about their experience in mentorship programs.
Murphy, who was co-founder of the bipartisan resolution that recognizes January as National Mentoring Month, said data trends show clearly that children who have positive mentorships tend to be more successful later in life.
According to statistics, there is a 55 percent increase in the likelihood of a young adult to go to college if they had a good mentorship, yet only 4 million children in the U.S. are enrolled in a formal mentorship program.
“I recognize that mentorships come in many different forms,” said Murphy. “But because the mentorship program shows such success, we’ve got to get more kids into a formal mentorship program since it works so well.”
One of the senator’s goals for 2020 is to get more federal support and to increase funding for these programs. “Our business is to try to efficiently invest money in programs for kids,” he said. “I think with mentorship success, we need to be able to do more.”
State Rep. William Petit, who was also at the roundtable, pointed out the need to give local organizations more flexibility in how they use state funds, especially for smaller organizations that can’t afford to hire grant writers or additional resources.
“They also know best where the funds should go,” he said. “So it’s important for local organizations to have more control over the money.”
Roughly 20 organizations from the surrounding area joined in the conversation, including Patricia Nicolari, director of mentoring with The Children’s Community Programs of Connecticut in New Haven, who emphasized the importance of both mentorship and preventative measures.
She said the program received several referrals recently that involved young boys who stole cars while being armed. When asked what would stop them from that kind of behavior, the boys collectively agreed that they need a place to go after school.
Resources for after-school programs are in dire need, she said. “It would be a preventative measure to give them a place to go or something to do. Especially for our inner-city kids, who live with a lot of trauma and stress from their homes.”
Berwyn Kelley, program director with the Boys & Girls Club of New Britain, agreed with the importance and the need to give children a place to go after school. He said many children from poor families have no resources to help them towards a better life, so for many of them, a mentorship program as well as a safe place to be are both vital towards their growth and education.
“We’re currently in the process of building a teen center but we get limited funds,” he said. “It’s not exactly how we want it but the focus needs to be on giving kids space, so we’ll work with what we have.”