A picture of Senator Mary L. Landrieu
Mary L.
Former Democrat LA
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    National Mentoring Month

    by Former Senator Mary L. Landrieu

    Posted on 2014-01-16

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    LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I wish to speak for just a minute in honor of National Mentoring Month. Senator Isakson and I have submitted a Senate resolution to pay tribute to the millions of men and women whose lives are enriched every day by mentoring in our country. I know we are going to get right back on the discussion on the Appropriations bill, but I want to take just a point of personal privilege for 2 or 3 minutes to talk about the fact that this is the 13th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, and today is Thank Your Mentor Day. With heartfelt gratitude, I would like to thank all of the mentors who serve in communities across Louisiana and all those who serve across the nation.

    I wish to acknowledge and I am very grateful to the following Senators: Senator Baldwin, Senator Brown, Senator Carper, Senator Cochran, Senator Durbin, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Mikulski, Senator Murray, Senator Rubio, Senator Schumer, Senator Scott, Senator Warren, and Senator Wyden, who cosponsored our mentor resolution and have been real leaders in the mentorship movement.

    In situations in which a young person is missing a caring, consistent presence, there is one simple intervention that can make all the difference: a good mentor. Research shows that mentoring improves academic achievement, self-esteem, social skills, and career development in children.

    The U.S. has strong mentoring programs, but more are needed. More than 4.5 million young people in the U.S. are in formal mentoring relationships; however, there are a growing number of young people who need mentors but do not have them. More than one in three young people, about 16 million Americans, are in need of a mentor. More than half of those who are without a mentor are at-risk youth. There is a particular need for an increase in mentors for foster youth who perhaps more than anyone else could benefit from a steady, dependable mentor. Because foster youth tend to move from home to home and school to school, they often lack the consistent academic guidance and emotional support they need to succeed. We need more caring mentors for these at-risk youth.

    We can all identify hundreds of young people or people of all different ages who are stepping up and doing an act of support and mentoring for a young person and who is making a real difference in their lives.

    I wish to just point out four in Louisiana today.

    One, as shown in this picture, is Lorita. She is serving 20 hours a week as a foster grandparent, working with special needs children at the James Ward Elementary School in Lake Charles, LA.

    With Lorita's loving guidance, her student mentee went from a 47- percent skill mastery in math to 80 percent. That is a pretty significant jump. That is a life-changing improvement for that child and opens a real opportunity for future mentorship work.

    One of my favorite mentor programs is the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, which started in Louisiana in 1993. The program opens its doors to young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who have dropped out of school, in many instances have dropped out of their families. Their families have given up on them and they have given up on their families and in many instances they are headed nowhere but to either prison or to a homeless shelter or worse.

    Our National Guard steps up and helps; doing all the amazing things our National Guard does here at home in [[Page S458]] peacetime and in war, they have also mentored over 15,000 young people in Louisiana in the last 20 years. We graduate from our three programs in Louisiana about 1,400 kids a year, each one with a mentor.

    So I wish to give a shout out to the National Guard and the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.

    Of course, a program we all support on both sides of the aisle is Big Brothers Big Sisters. There are three Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies, serving 871 at-risk youth in the State of Louisiana.

    These are youth who include children of single parent families, those with a parent who currently may be incarcerated or children who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. We have a wonderful Big Brother Big Sister mentor here. Urmie is an outstanding Big Sister serving in Jennings, LA, who proudly says her most rewarding aspect of serving as a mentor is: Knowing I am making a difference in a young person's life.

    Finally, our Big Buddy Program. Big Buddy is a leading community program in Baton Rouge, LA. It is national as well, supported broadly by Members of Congress and local officials. We in our program serve 700 disadvantaged youth each week.

    One of their most dedicated mentors, John, has served since 2008 and is a product of mentoring.

    John's father wasn't a presence in his life, so by his own admission, he lacked guidance growing up. However, he was blessed with some caring adults--his coach, teacher, and pastor--who stepped in to make sure he did not fall through the cracks.

    Once into adulthood and established in his career, John felt the need to reconnect and give back to children who face adversity. John is now the proud mentor of two mentees: Bobby and Charles.

    I encourage all Americans to seek out opportunities in their community to serve as a mentor, and I urge the public and private sectors to come together and create partnerships to close the mentoring gap.

    With an increase in dedicated mentors like Lorita, Michael, Urmie, and John we can ensure that more young Americans are better prepared for school, work, and life.

    Once again, please join me in celebrating January 2014 as National Mentoring Month and in honoring the millions of Americans who guide our youngest citizens towards achieving their dreams.

    Now I am going to end. But I do want to particularly say how proud I am of the Million Women Mentors which I find very exciting as a woman leader. I know the Presiding Officer will be thrilled to see the number of extraordinary businesses and organizations that are trying to identify 1 million mentors for girls in America to go into the field of science, technology, engineering, and math, which is a game changer for little girls and young women to think about careers such as science, technology, engineering, and math. There is often a need in our country for that skilled labor, so mentors are stepping up and filling in the gap.

    I want everyone to be proud that today is a celebration of mentorship month. I thank Senator Isakson for joining me in supporting this effort.

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