Be A Mentor And Help Strengthen Our Community

The following was published in the January 30, 2015 edition of the Boston Business Journal.

By Martin J. Walsh and Bob Gallery

As we enter 2015, there are many reasons to be excited about Boston's future. We're making real strides in education, innovation and economic growth, to name just a few areas. But our continued success as a community is inextricably linked to the development of Boston's youth. Too many young people in our city lack caring adults in their lives, depriving them of a support system that's critically important to their future success. That has long-term impacts on their academic achievement and, in turn, future workforce readiness.

Helping connect young people with caring adult relationships to help them thrive is what mentoring is all about. Through mentoring, members of the business community can help at-risk young people connect with a world where they can see possibilities for themselves and gain confidence that they can be successful. It has concrete results, too. For example, mentoring supports academic achievement, with a 55 percent higher likelihood that a mentored youth will go on to college.

Just as important as learning in the classroom, the connection with a mentor boosts workforce readiness by helping to develop real-world skills, from the simplest like how to prepare for a job interview to the more complex such as effective time management at work. Without these and other vital skills, our young people will struggle to step into the jobs we need them to be ready for. This is especially critical in our current economy, as employers in Boston and across the state often struggle to find qualified applicants to fill open positions.

Unfortunately, just as there is a shortage of qualified applicants in our workforce, there is also a dearth of mentors to help our at-risk youth. The need to bridge that gap is the main driver behind the Mayor's Mentoring Movement. The goal of this initiative is to recruit 1,000 new mentors over the next two years. To do this, people from across the city will need to get involved, and the business community will need to build on the progress it has made. Businesses will play an important role in supporting and expanding this movement while connecting to our city in very meaningful ways. Companies that aren't doing so already should encourage employees to become mentors either on their own or as a group, and support mentoring programs through grants, sponsorships, pro-bono support or donations of event tickets for mentors and mentees to enjoy a night out together.

January is National Mentoring Month and there's no better time to answer the mentoring call. It's critically important that every young person has a caring adult in their life. There are young people throughout the city of Boston right now that need the support, guidance and real-life skills that members of our business community can give. Help strengthen our city and empower a generation of Boston youth with the skills and support they need to be the workers and leaders of tomorrow.

To get more information about mentoring and learn how businesses can get involved, visit massmentors.org.

Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston. Bob Gallery is Massachusetts president of Bank of America.