Mentoring works; support the state grants

To the Editor:

As the state budget season shifts into high gear, legislators on Beacon Hill are grappling with many competing priorities, including decisions on funding for initiatives that support young people. With the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the federal budget and its effects on Massachusetts, it’s critical when resources are limited that we focus on initiatives that offer proven results.

Mentoring works. It brings caring adults into the lives of young people and gives them the support they need to reach their full potential. A study published by Wilder Research shows that for every dollar invested in effective mentoring programs, there is a return of $2.72. That comes from projected increases in lifetime earnings by giving at-risk youth a guiding hand and view to opportunities. It means they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. This is especially important as state leaders confront the growing problem of opioid abuse. Young people in these relationships are more likely to stay in school, more ready for the workforce and to engage in positive social relationships. In short, these mentoring relationships support young people and strengthen our communities.

Unfortunately, the need for these relationships remains great. Too many young people aren’t finishing school, meaning they aren’t fully prepared for well-paying jobs, more likely to depend on public assistance and more likely to be incarcerated.

The state Mentoring Matching Grants line item provides critical funds to mentoring programs across the state to make more of these empowering youth-adult relationships possible. An investment of $750,000 in fiscal year 2018 will create and support more than 2,000 mentoring relationships across Massachusetts, including many in Boston at programs like Boston Partners in Education, Generations Inc., and many others. This request is $250,000 more than what was budgeted last year and will allow an expanded effort into the public schools to grow these relationships with “graduation coaches” who support young people in danger of dropping out of school. The $750,000 request represents just a fraction of a state budget that approaches $40 billion annually. What’s more, there is a dollar-for-dollar match requirement for mentoring programs receiving funds, meaning private sector dollars will double the impact of this investment.

As leaders in the public and private sector and as board members for Mass Mentoring Partnership, which administers the Mentoring Matching Grants, we know how important an increase is this year. Representative Liz Malia has been a longtime supporter of this line item in the past and we are urging her to support the increased funding this year to make more of these relationships happen north of Boston and across the state.

Please take a moment to contact Representative Malia and other legislators to let them know that you support the Mentoring Matching Grants line item as a proven strategy to connect young people with caring adults and strengthen communities across our state.