In 1997, the Center for Health Communication of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health launched a national media campaign to promote the growth of the mentoring movement with the goal of linking large numbers of young people with adult mentors. All the major broadcast television networks participated, along with 45 national and regional cable networks and leading Hollywood studios. The campaign has included an East Room event in the White House and the involvement of General Colin Powell and Quincy Jones as spokespersons. The Harvard Mentoring Project was launched with support from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The MCJ Foundation.
Harvard undertook this initiative because studies have shown that mentoring is a highly effective strategy for preventing several key public health problems that young people face, including school violence, drug abuse, and school drop out. Mentoring provides information, opportunities, nurturance, and support. By successfully navigating a relationship with a mentor, a young person develops a shared sense of caring, respect, trust, and, consequently, the belief that “I can.” This positive attitude, or self-efficacy, makes a fundamental difference when it is applied to specific goals (such as school or career) or to the young person’s emotional development.
In a landmark study conducted by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), 1000 young people on the waiting list of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America were randomly assigned to two groups. Members of one group were assigned a mentor; members of the other group remained on the waiting list. Comparing the two groups 18 months later, the children with mentors were: 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27% less likely to begin using alcohol; 53% less likely to skip school; and 33% less likely to engage in violence. P/PV also found that young people with mentors: felt more competent about their ability to do well in school; reported more positive relationships with friends and parents; had better attitudes toward school and the future; and had better attitudes toward their family and communities.
National Mentoring Month
In 2002, the Harvard Mentoring Project launched a new effort to institutionalize the nation’s commitment to mentoring for the long-term. In collaboration with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, other nonprofit partners, and leading communication companies, the Harvard Mentoring Project established the month of January as National Mentoring Month – an annual, concentrated burst of national and local media attention, combined with White House and Congressional involvement and extensive community outreach. National Mentoring Month provides an annual “shot in the arm” for the mentoring movement.
National Mentoring Month focuses national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us—individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits—can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes for our young people.
NMM celebrates mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives. Its goals are to:
- Raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms.
- Recruit individuals to mentor, especially in programs that have waiting lists of young people.
- Promote the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage their constituents in mentoring.
The national partners work with the NMM campaign’s local partners, who are organizing special NMM events in their communities with numerous partners, including their local media. These events help interested adults learn how to turn their concern for young people into direct action by becoming mentors.
Each year since its launch, NMM has enjoyed the strong support of the U.S. President and members of Congress. Additional prominent individuals who have participated in the campaign include: Maya Angelou, former President Bill Clinton, Clint Eastwood, Senator John McCain, Quincy Jones, General Colin L. Powell, Cal Ripken, Jr., Bill Russell and Usher.