Between dropouts in K-12 and college, only 25% of kids are making it through to get any kind of academic degree. We aren’t even talking about the quality of the education received that would truly prepare them for life and to be internationally competitive for successful careers. The bottom line is that 75% of kids are not acquiring the skills needed to succeed and to sustain themselves. Imagine a reality 15 years from now-when these kids today become adults-that 75% of Americans won’t have the skills to pay for themselves.
We have a whole generation of kids who have never had anyone believe in them and their dreams–who are giving up. Worse yet, in many cases across all walks of life, the adults are telling kids to their face that they will never amount to anything.
I have a friend who lives in a decent neighborhood whose 6 year old daughter came from school one day and asked her, “mom, what does ‘succeed’ mean?” Mom replied, “Why do you ask honey?” The daughter replied, “because my teacher said it is what I will never be good at!”
Recently, I hosted a group to visit the Los Angeles School of Global Studies—a school in the middle of Los Angeles is helping disadvantaged kids succeed. At the end of the visit, we had a student panel that we could ask any question of the kids. One question was how they could compare their prior school to their amazing current school experience. Each student had come from 6 different schools. Each one had an identical story. In their prior school, they said they had teachers who didn’t care. Who would simply hand them worksheets and if they failed, the teacher would simply give them an “F” and not care whether the kid was learning or not.
We were inspired by another student who talked about his own experience about being in prison, and when he got out, he begged to come back to the Los Angeles School of Global Studies. He was a “tough” guy and some kids looked up to him. However, he told these kids, “Don’t look up to me. You don’t want my life. You are capable of so much more. ” In an unconventional way, this kid was being a mentor to his peers.
The big idea that hit me out of these stories is that the most important thing you can do for a kid is to “care” and that anyone can be a mentor. You don’t have to have a bunch of expertise or have a chock full of advice. What matters most is that you deeply care about your mentee’s success and put their interest and well-being first and take every opportunity to talk to a kid about their dreams and that they can succeed.
The Right to Succeed Foundation is collaborating with Over My Shoulder Foundation around the cause of using mentorship to help kids succeed and not lose hope. Mentorship is not a job title or position, it is a way of being—a connector between a child and their dreams and aspirations. It is being that one adult or peer in a kid’s life that believes in them, their dreams, and their right to succeed. Seek out opportunities to be there for a kid—it may be the only chance you will get. You can change and save a kids life!
Written by Ted Fujimoto