Durbin, Duckworth Introduce Bill To Support School-Based Mentoring Programs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today introduced the Mentoring to Succeed Act, legislation that increases support for school-based mentoring programs in order to help at-risk youth thrive in their schools, careers, and life. The bill would invest in mentoring programs that help students overcome adversity and trauma and develop the workforce skills employers are seeking.

Specifically, the Mentoring to Succeed Act would establish a five-year, competitive grant program that provides federal funding to establish, expand, or support school-based mentoring programs. The grant program would:

  • Provide recipients with funding to train mentors in trauma-informed practices and interventions to increase student resilience and reduce juvenile justice involvement;
  • Support partnerships with local businesses and private companies to help at-risk students with hands-on career training and career exploration;
  • Give preference to applicants that develop a plan to help prepare at-risk students for college and the workforce;
  • Support partnerships with nonprofit, community-based, and faith-based organizations to serve more at-risk students and;
  • Provide recipients with funding for program evaluation.

“In neighborhoods across Chicago and around the country, young boys and girls, especially boys and girls of color, grow up facing barriers like childhood poverty, inadequate schools, and community violence. Without a strong support system, these kids will often struggle to transition to high school, college, and the workforce,” said Durbin. “School-based mentoring programs can be an effective strategy to help at-risk students thrive in their schools, careers, and life. That’s why I’m joining Senator Duckworth to reintroduce this bill that would strengthen investments in school-based mentoring programs to ensure our most vulnerable children have the opportunity to succeed and achieve their full potential.”

“Too many young people, particularly young people of color, don't have access to the academic or economic opportunities that everyone deserves. At the same time, too many young people struggle with violence in their communities and other obstacles that stifle their dreams and their ambitions. Our nation’s children deserve a chance to reach their full potential, and school-based mentoring programs have been proven to help students do just that,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senator Durbin in re-introducing this legislation to help ensure every child gets the attention, guidance and resources they need to succeed in school, in the workforce and in life.”

U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) will be introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

“As students face increased social and psychological strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mentoring to Succeed Act is more important than ever,” said Schakowsky. “Far too many young people fail to see their own potential because of obstacles and barriers that keep them from accessing the resources they need to be successful. That’s why I’m proud to join Senators Durbin and Duckworth, and my House colleague Rep. Trahan in introducing this bill. The Mentoring to Succeed Act is a crucial first step in helping at-risk youth—particularly children of color—receive valuable guidance and support to pursue their dreams.”

According to a 2014 study, there are an estimated 16 million young people, including nine million at-risk youth, who will reach 19 years old without ever having a mentor.  As a result, these youth will miss out on the powerful effects of mentoring that are linked to significant outcomes, including:

  • 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school,
  • 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college,
  • 81 percent more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities,
  • 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities, and
  • 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that Youth Guidance’s school-based mentoring program, Becoming a Man, reduced arrests for violent crime, improved school engagement, and increased high school graduation rates.

In Illinois, an estimated 55,000 youth are formally matched with a mentor, with 68 percent residing in Metro Chicago.  Last year, it cost the State of Illinois an average of $187,765 to incarcerate one youth, compared to an average of $6,000 for one youth in an intensive youth development program, and only $2,300 per youth in a formal mentoring program.  In 2012, the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that benefits to society compared to mentoring program costs in Illinois measured as high as $31 dollars for every $1 dollar invested.

The Mentoring to Succeed Act is endorsed by: America’s Promise Alliance, Association of University Centers on Disability, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, Chicago Urban League, Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois, College Mentors for Kids, Inc., Disability:IN, Girls Inc., Girls Inc. of Chicago, Instituto Del Program Latino, JFF, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Metropolitan Family Services, National Alliance of Faith and Justice, National CARES Mentoring Movement, National Council for Independent Living, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, Sisters Circle, The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Union League Boys & Girls Clubs, Year Up, and Youth Guidance.