As part of our 20 Challenges in 2012 initiative to celebrate Mass Mentoring’s 20th anniversary, we are releasing a series of challenges to address key goals of mentoring in Massachusetts. Goal six is 20 ways that communities grow with mentoring. The Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring have researched 20 ways that mentoring provides positive social benefits that strengthen schools, families and communities. You can read more about their findings here.
This guest post is from Devin Smith, an Ambassador at Science Club for Girls.
After 14 years of decline, there has been a recent upward trend in youth crime rates nationally, which has been attributed to a decrease in federal spending on crime prevention efforts targeted at youth. The hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on school days are the peak times for youth to commit crime; be in or cause car crashes; and be victims of crime and use drugs (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2002).
Many young and first time offenders act out in delinquent and criminal ways because they are receiving inadequate support for social, mental, academic or emotional problems, and do not fully understand the consequences of their actions (Grisso, 1996). Youth delinquents are more likely to continue to commit crimes and are two to three times more likely to eventually become serious, violent and chronic offenders (Us. Det. Of JJDP, 2003).
Clearly, preventative measures need to be taken early to provide young people the tools and support they need to live healthy and productive lives, and prevent behaviors that can turn them into life-long criminals.
Young people themselves are requesting services that provide them an alternative to delinquency and crime. According to the Alliance for Youth, two out of three young people nationwide wish there were more places they could hang out where they could feel safe and have fun (The Alliance for Youth, 2006). Afterschool programs, like mentoring, provide safe, fun spaces and help reduce crime rates over time by pairing youth with positive role models that provide supportive and meaningful interactions where they can play, do homework or build job-readiness skills (Jucovy, 2000), which both removes them from immediate situations that are potentially dangerous, and prepares them for further educational and career opportunities. Quality mentoring programs across Massachusetts have utilized mentors to help build resume writing and interview skills, teach young people how to prevent and defuse violent situations, and practice good study habits, all in an effort to prevent and reduce youth crime (Governor’s Anti-Crime Council Urban Violence Subcommittee, 2008).
America’s Promise, The Alliance for Youth. (2006). A report from America’s Promise Alliance: every child every promise, turning failure into action
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York. (2002). New York’s after-school choice: The prime time for juvenile crime or youth enrichment and achievement
Grisso, T. 1996. Society’s retributive re- sponse to juvenile violence: A develop- mental perspective. Law and Human Behavior 20(3):229–247.
Linda Jucovy, The ABC’s of School-Based Mentoring, The National Mentoring Center (September, 2000)
Urban Violence in the Commonwealth: Prevention, Intervention and Rehabilitation , Governor’s Anti-Crime Council Urban Violence Subcommittee (November, 2008)
U. S. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (May 2003), Child Delinquency: Early Intervention and Prevention