When I was a seventh grader, the word "mentoring" wasn’t commonly used. Adults in my world didn’t have labels beyond their name and occupation. I realize now some were what we know today as mentors. They inspired, encouraged, guided. And they are responsible in part for who I have become.
I was one of the lucky ones then, and your child might be one of the lucky ones now. But according to research commissioned by The National Mentoring Partnership, one in three students doesn’t have a caring adult mentor to help build confidence, help with school work, or open the mind to new possibilities.
A mentoring gap of 16 million youth has a direct impact on AT&T’s talent pipeline, and as a business with more than 250,000 employees, we know we can help.
In 2012 we launched the AT&T Aspire Mentoring Academy for our employees and set a goal to provide students with one million hours of mentoring by the end of 2016. We focused on critical 21st-century work skills and academic support, and helped students see how classroom learning leads to future success. We encouraged them to complete high school and go on to college or a career.
Our employees have already surpassed one million hours and mentored more than 160,000 students. More importantly, the time spent had impact. When California high-school student Valeria met Angelina, her mentor from Texas, she was struggling with her confidence inside and outside the classroom.
Despite being hundreds of miles apart, the pair spent time online each week discussing everything from schoolwork to Valeria’s dreams for the future. It’s just one of many stories that show how mentoring has changed the lives of students and employees.
With today’s technology, we can build long-distance relationships and reach even more of the 16 million youth in that mentoring gap. Technology and best-in-class non-profits such as We Teach Science, Nepris, and iCouldBe have opened the door for mentors and mentees like Valeria and Angelina to find each other, wherever they live and work.
With geographical divides bridged, all it takes is a caring adult spending a few hours with a student who needs help. We encourage all businesses to collaborate with nonprofits, teachers, and schools to help close the mentoring gap. Together, we can use the power of our networks to reach more students and help turn their dreams for the future into reality.
Charlene Lake, SVP, corporate social responsibility, and chief sustainability officer, AT&T