Thrivent member Lindsey Schwartz and her husband started mentoring youth a few years ago after a networking group introduced them to the Phoenix-area nonprofit, New Pathways for Youth. "We both love kids and wanted to get more involved in our community," she says.
"I've always been drawn to working with youth because I remember how difficult those years were for me," Schwartz notes. "Youth today deal with so many additional pressures and influences, like social media. I love being able to help them navigate these pivotal years and develop a sense of confidence that isn't based on the opinions of others."
Helping high school boys succeed
Being a teenager is even harder when the odds are stacked against you. New Pathways for Youth primarily serves at-risk youth in Central Phoenix's Garfield neighborhood. Here, nine out of 10 kids live in extreme poverty, eight out of 10 have experienced family violence and four out of 10 are likely to drop out of high school.
At-risk youth who had a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 52% less likely to skip a day of class.
- Research by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, 2015
Research conducted in 2015 by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership shows young people at risk of dropping out of high school who had a mentor experienced many positive academic-related outcomes compared to their peers. Mentored kids are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 52% less likely to skip a day of class.
Schwartz was determined to ensure the two high school boys she mentored didn't fall through the cracks. In her one-on-one sessions with them over three-plus years, she challenged them to go to class every day and texted them daily reminders.
Although one of the boys didn't graduate, the one who did was accepted into college, where he continues to excel.
Connecting with teenage girls
When Schwartz's commitment at New Pathways ended, she started mentoring teenage girls through the junior high ministry at her church – Christ's Church of the Valley, a nondenominational church serving the Greater Phoenix area. She and her co-leader, a high school senior, mentor a group of 15 to 20 students.
Each Saturday, the group meets for a junior high-specific worship service that includes discussions about the gospel message of the week. The group often gets together for fun activities, like movies nights, holiday events or hiking.
"Although I loved working with the boys, it's a bit easier for me to relate to the girls," Schwartz says. "I can remember being their age and dealing with some of the same things they struggle with." And because the group is part of her church, she can have faith-based conversations with them – something she really enjoys.
'One of the most-rewarding things'
Schwartz says being a mentor is one of the most rewarding and challenging things she's ever done, especially because the role doesn't come with an instructional handbook.
"I don't think any mentor ever feels qualified," she admits. "But the most important thing a mentor can do is offer support and encouragement. Simply being there for a young person can have a lasting impact."
Want to make a difference in a young person's life?
Eligible Thrivent members can help support the work of New Pathways for Youth by directing Choice Dollars®.
Not a member or don't have Choice Dollars to direct? You can support New Pathways by making a personal donation.
Find mentoring opportunities through MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, YWCA and the United Way. Or inquire at any local school, church or community center. And help make a difference for today's youth.