On Thursday, October 23rd, Stephen Wallace led a F.O.C.U.S. (Forming Opportunities for Collaboration, Understanding, and Service) Forum on providing quality youth mentoring. Stephen shared original Teens Today research on mentoring from his new book Reality Gap: Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex – What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling. Also speaking was a Northeastern University sophomore currently volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters. To inquire about hosting Stephen at your college or university, please visit the web page for the SADD Speaker Series.
In his remarks, Stephen talked about some of the documented benefits realized by young people with “natural” mentors, including higher sense of self, participation in positive risk-taking activities (such as trying out for a sports team or volunteering for community service), and avoidance of underage drinking, other drug use, and early sexual behavior. He also noted gains for kids with “formal” – or matched mentors – including enhanced school performance, better relationships with parents and peers, and decreased incidents of violence.
In addition to SADD’s research, Stephen cited the work of Harvard’s Robert Putnam centering on building social capital and the research of Tufts University professor Richard Lerner, whose new book, The Good Teen, highlights the many positive attributes of today’s adolescents and the contributions they make to society.
Stephen pointed to the burgeoning number of college students involved in community service and service learning programs, drew from his own mentoring experience as a student at Susquehanna University and Bucknell University, and concluded with a “call to action” for even more students to commit themselves to mentoring local youth.
During the question and answer period, Stephen said that research suggests there may be “back door” benefits for mentors related to their own growth and development and the choices they make regarding personal behavior, including underage and high-risk, or binge, drinking.
SADD’s 2008-2009 national Student of the Year, Stephen Winkler, a freshman at Emmanuel College (and a Big Brother volunteer himself), attended the event.
For more information about the event, click here …