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Youth Mentoring

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"Young people will find a way to meet their needs... even if this means moving in directions that are not approved of by family and/or community. Whether or how young people meet their needs depends in large part on the strength and direction of influences and opportunities in their lives".

-Youth Development Institute

Youth mentoring is one of the most under utilized tools in America for the successful development of intelligent and prosperous young men and women. Young people today need multi-dimensional care in order to successfully mature into well rounded individuals. Unfortunately, a majority of youth today are not receiving the attention they need in order to reach their full potential (Boyle 1). Without proper guidance, these youth are participating in high levels of at risk behaviors, such as substance abuse and violence. When faced with difficult situations, it is easy for a young person to make poor choices. A youth mentor provides an extra outlet for these adolescents when a parent, sibling, or friend is not available, or even able to make the best choices for the adolescent. Youth mentoring is needed now more than ever.

The multi-faceted needs of an adolescent are almost more complex than that of an adult. At such a young age teenagers and pre-teens are trying to understand right from wrong, learning how to take care of themselves, discovering who they are and establishing values. It is necessary for youth to have a strong and stable support system while growing up. Traditionally, parents are expected to fill this role. Today, however, that is not always the case.

The divorce rate in the United States is soaring. Accordingly, as the divorce rate increases, so does the number of single parents. When marriages end, and divorce papers are signed, changes have to be made. One larger household is replaced by two smaller households. Instead of one set of bills, there are two. Visitation rights replace family time. Countless adjustments are inevitable. This type of situation brings about confusion, disappointment, and despair in the lives of young people.

With such a high percentage of teen pregnancies, consequently there is an elevated number of young mothers. When a mother is at a young age when she bears a child, it is exceedingly complicated to appropriately take care of the child while at the same time caring for herself. Teenage moms generally want to finish high school or attend college, spend time hanging out with friends, or work in order to provide for themselves and their babies. Teenage mothers who do not fully understand the responsibility of taking care of a baby are oftentimes shocked when they find they can no longer finish school or even work a sufficient amount of hours to pay the bills.

Divorce rate is escalating. Teenage mothers are abundant. Single and uninformed mothers and fathers cannot properly take on a job, house and car payments, grocery shopping, parent teacher association, doctors appointments, after-school activities, carpool, and packed lunches, and adequately care for three kids. It is next to impossible. Thirty percent of children in American live in a household with only one parent (Young Life 1). Several parents are left with their hands too full to adequately care for their own children on all levels. Total wellness on all levels encompasses physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental well being. Optimal physical health requires eating well, exercising, avoiding harmful habits, making responsible decisions about sex, learning about and recognizing the symptoms of disease, getting regular medical check-ups, and taking steps to prevent injuries. Trust, self-esteem, optimism, self-acceptance, self-control, self-confidence, satisfying relationships, and an ability to share feelings are just some of the qualities and aspects of emotional wellness. The hallmarks of intellectual health include an openness to new ideas, an aptitude to question and think critically, and the enthusiasm to master new skills, as well as a sense of humor, creativity, and curiosity. To possess spiritual health is to enjoy a set of guiding beliefs, principles, of values that give meaning and purpose to your life, particularly during difficult times. Social wellness simply means the ability to have satisfying relationships. Environmental wellness is not as easily stated, though generally understood as the health of the planet. This expands to each individual, concerning an array of environments each person encounters on a regular basis. This encompasses the city and state, neighborhood, school, place of work, and many others. All of the mentioned factors are in some way needed for optimal wellness. It is not surprising or even completely expected, that a parent or parents provide their children with every aspect of these ideas.

New information continues to surface regarding destructive behaviors and the youth of America. More and more adolescents are using drugs and other harmful chemicals, drinking alcohol, having unprotected sex, carrying weapons, and committing suicide. This is not only unacceptable, but it is frightening.

Most sixteen year olds receive their license, and feel as if they are on top of the world. They are young. They have so much to live for. Despondently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that the leading cause of death among youth between the ages of fifteen and twenty is motor vehicle crashes (SADD 2). This pertains to destructive decisions because almost forty percent of these fatal crashes were alcohol related (SADD 2). Today, although alcohol is only illegal for anyone under twenty-one, and marijuana, cocaine, and other controlled substances are illegal at any age, drugs such as these are found with ease. In 2004, 51.1% of twelfth graders reported having used an illicit drug in their lifetime (NIDA 3). However, some come in contact with these drugs as early as elementary school. A larger proportion not only comes in contact with drugs and alcohol, but experiment with drugs and alcohol, in middle school. It is somewhat rare for a high school teenager to have never seen or tried one of these substances. More than five million high school aged youth binge drink at lease once a month (SADD 1). Consumption of alcohol reduces activity in the central nervous system. Drinking alcohol impairs decisions and fine motor coordination, thus causing an abundance of possible predicaments to arise.

Violence in schools is becoming more prominent than ever. Violence has been seen on many different levels, and has been seen at a very young age. Schools are now becoming stricter with policies in order to ensure the safety of the students. Violence can initiate with hateful words, progress with shoving or hitting,



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