White House gives boost to national mentoring efforts

For immediate release: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Washington, DC – The President and First Lady Michelle Obama will give a tremendous boost today to the national movement to recruit volunteer mentors to help transform the lives of America’s youth. Mentors and their mentees from across the country will join the President and Mrs. Obama at a White House event to highlight the value of mentoring and mark the 9th Annual National Mentoring Month. The President’s remarks will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live starting at 4:05 pm EST.

Led by Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, National Mentoring Month is a national initiative that is working to focus attention on the need for mentors with the message that, “If we – individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits – can work together to increase the number of mentors, we assure brighter futures for our young people.” This year’s campaign features General Colin Powell in a public service announcement, and leverages the work of fifty local partners across the country as well as corporations to mobilize more Americans to serve as mentors.

Dr. Jay A. Winsten, an associate dean at the Harvard School of Health, commented, “Youth mentoring is a highly effective public health intervention. Research has shown that programs that rely on volunteer mentors can play a powerful role in reducing drug abuse and youth violence, while greatly enhancing a young person’s prospects for leading a healthy and productive life.”

Federal support for mentoring as a tool to increase young people’s prospects for leading a healthy and productive life has increased over the years, and taken center stage under the Obama administration. The Corporation recently launched Serve.gov/mentor to help Americans find opportunities to mentor and chairs the Federal Mentoring Council, an interagency working group that coordinates federal efforts to support mentoring programs.

“MENTOR is thrilled with the President and First Lady’s commitment to mentoring.  There are currently three million children who are engaged in a quality mentoring program in this country and fourteen million more children who want and need a mentor.  The President and First Lady’s dedication to this movement will help close this gap and provide hope and inspiration for mentees and mentors alike,” said Larry Wright, PhD, President and CEO of MENTOR.

The Corporation, the federal agency that leads domestic service initiatives, supports numerous mentoring programs that help alleviate youth gang activity, reduce the dropout rate and send thousands of young people to college each year. Participants in the Corporation’s Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America programs mentored more than 89,000 children of prisoners, 94,000 youth from disadvantaged circumstances, and 248,000 children and youth with special or exceptional needs, in fiscal 2009.

“Our nation’s success depends on helping every child succeed and reach their full potential in life,” said Nicola Goren, the Corporation’s Acting CEO. “Mentoring strengthens our nation’s economic and social well-being by influencing the life choices of young people with the help of a caring adult.”

On January 21, Americans across the country will honor their mentor by participating in the seventh annual “Thank Your Mentor Day.” The day calls on people to thank those who encouraged and guided them, and who had a lasting impact on their lives. Tributes to mentors will be posted on WhoMentoredYou.org.

The Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication spearheaded the development of National Mentoring Month as an outgrowth of its media campaign promoting mentoring launched in 1997 with funding from The MCJ Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and MetLife Foundation. The original stimulus for the campaign was a 1997 national summit on the future of America’s children organized by philanthropist Ray Chambers and chaired by General Colin Powell with all the living U.S. presidents in attendance.  National Mentoring Month was launched in 2002 with Harvard and MENTOR as lead partners; the Corporation for National and Community Service joined the campaign as a lead partner in 2007.

For more information on National Mentoring Month and the importance of mentoring, visit Serve.gov/mentor and Mentoring.org.


The Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health is an initiative of the School’s Center for Health Communication.  The Center, which has helped pioneer the field of mass communication and public health, has focused on using communication technologies to promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles on both the personal and policy agendas. The Center’s best-known initiative, the Harvard Alcohol Project, demonstrated how a new social concept–the designated driver–could be rapidly introduced through mass communication, promoting a new social norm that the driver does not drink. That project represented the first large-scale effort to incorporate health messages within the dialogue of Hollywood scripts.

Thank Your Mentor Day™ is an initiative of the Harvard School of Public Health.  For more information about the Harvard Mentoring Project, visit WhoMentoredYou.org.

MENTOR is the lead champion for youth mentoring in the United States.  An estimated 17 million children in America need and want mentors.  MENTOR helps kids in need through building: a capacity of mentoring programs nationwide; quality for mentoring in general (through standards, cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art tools); and capital (MENTOR helps the mentoring movement raise funds to continue its critical work). MENTOR works closely with State Mentoring Partnerships and more than 5,000 mentoring programs and volunteer centers throughout the country, serving more than 3 million children in all 50 states.  Founded in 1990, MENTOR is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. For more information about MENTOR, visit Mentoring.org.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service each year through its core programs, Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information about the Corporation, visit NationalService.gov.

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Todd Datz