Durbin, Duckworth, Schakowsky, Garcia, Trahan Introduce Mentoring To Succeed Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL-4),  and Lori Trahan (D-MA-3), introduced the bicameral Mentoring to Succeed Act to provide a strong, sustainable support system through mentorship to ensure that children who experience barriers like poverty, inadequate schooling, disability, adverse childhood experiences, or drug or alcohol abuse, can successfully transition to high school, college, and the workforce. The Mentoring to Succeed Act would strengthen investments in school-based mentorship programs to help at-risk youth develop the academic, social, and workforce skills that lead to success. 

“In Chicago neighborhoods and across the country, young kids, especially children of color, are faced with barriers like community violence and inadequate schooling that will have a dramatic impact on their ability to finish school and transition to the workforce. But with the intervention of a mentor, kids could lean on a strong support system to guide them through the struggles they face,” said Durbin. “I’m voicing my support for mentorship programs by introducing the Mentoring to Succeed Act to ensure that 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,” Duckworth said. “At the same time, too many 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. 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.”

“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic slows course, students are still dealing with the trauma of this past year,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “Our nation’s students, particularly those most at risk, deserve access to a support system that will help them thrive in school, in their future careers, and beyond. That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Mentoring to Succeed Act that will provide urgently needed resources for school-based mentoring programs.”

“Far too many young people in Chicago and across the country face barriers to educational and economic opportunities, and that’s especially true for communities of color. That’s why school-based mentoring programs, which are proven to help students overcome adversity and trauma and thrive in the classroom and beyond, are so important. Our Mentoring to Succeed Act provides critical investments in these mentorship programs and builds the support systems that communities like mine need and that I relied on myself growing up,” said Rep. García.

“Even as students return to the classroom in full this fall, we have lots of work ahead to prevent the most vulnerable from falling further behind because of the pandemic. School-based mentoring programs have a proven track record of keeping students on track and succeeding,” said Rep. Trahan. “We’ve seen that firsthand through the tremendous benefits offered by mentoring programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lowell and LUK, Inc. in Fitchburg. It’s time to pass the Mentoring to Succeed Act so we make the necessary investments to expand that access to students across the Commonwealth and the country.”

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 have shown to make a student 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their community, and 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions. Researchers at the University of Chicago also found that a school-based mentoring program, Becoming a Man, reduced arrests for violent crime, improved school engagement, and increased high school graduation rates.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the necessity of federal investment in mentorship programs. During the pandemic, only 57 percent of mentors in existing programs could regularly contact students and 29 percent of mentoring programs reported decreasing their staffing capacity.

The Mentoring To Succeed Act would help address the crisis facing at-risk students by:

  • Investing in Mentoring Programs.  Establish a five-year, competitive grant program that provides federal funding to establish, expand, or support school-based mentoring programs.
  • Helping Students Overcome Adversity and Trauma.  Provide grant recipients with funding to train mentors in trauma-informed practices and interventions to increase student resilience and reduce juvenile justice involvement.
  • Strengthening Workforce Readiness.  Support partnerships with local businesses and private companies to help at-risk students with hands-on career training and career exploration. 
  • Closing the Opportunity Gap.  The grant program would give preference to applicants that develop a plan to help prepare at-risk students for college and the workforce.
  • Supporting Capacity Building.  The grant program would support partnerships with nonprofit, community-based, and faith-based organizations to serve more at-risk students.
  • Enhancing Student Success.  Federal grants would provide grant recipients with funding for program evaluation.

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, Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois, College Mentors for Kids, Inc., Disability:IN, Girls Inc., JFF, MENTOR National, Metropolitan Family Services, National Alliance of Faith and Justice, National CARES Mentoring Movement, National Council for Independent Living, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, StriveTogether, The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Year Up, Youth Guidance.