Why are there so few male mentors?
By Graig Meyer
Across the Triangle, there are dozens of mentoring programs trying to support young men by providing them with male role models. We know firsthand what newspaper headlines tell us: Too many boys in our society are failing school and falling between the cracks.
Like most mentoring programs, the program that I run has one challenge that surpasses all others: Recruiting enough male mentors.
Twice a year, our program trains a group of new mentors and brings in new students. Last fall, we faced a crisis. With only one week to go before our training for mentors was to begin, no men had stepped forward to volunteer.
That’s right. No men had volunteered to become mentors. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Recently, a social worker from one of our local elementary schools told me that she asked teachers at her school to recommend students for our program. They recommended two girls … and eight boys. That’s no surprise. There are probably about four times as many boys who need mentors as girls. Unfortunately, our female mentors outnumber their male counterparts 2:1.
Why don’t men volunteer? (Are you reading this, men?) They consistently tell me four things:
1) I’m too busy.
2) I’m not patient enough.
3) I wouldn’t be good at it.
4) I’m not sure it really works.
Guys, I’m calling you out. Those are excuses that are leaving our young men behind. First of all, it does work. We have a 100 percent high school graduation rate for our male students and 100 percent of them have also gone on to some type of post-secondary education.
You would be good at mentoring. You are patient enough. There is no movie-influenced Supermentor role that you need to fulfill. You just need to be yourself. There are boys in our community who need you.
Making the time is something you can choose to do. And I promise you that you will be rewarded.
Mentoring is not always easy, but our mentors consistently say that once they begin mentoring it’s other stuff that they have to make time for – mentor time is something they look forward to.
So, what can you do?
Men: Step up to the plate. Mentoring programs need to hear from you. Most programs ask for you to give just a couple of hours per week. You can include your protegé in things you’re already doing, like going to a basketball game, fishing, fixing your car or cooking dinner.
Women: Reach out to the men in your lives. The best way to recruit a mentor is to tell him, “You’d really make a great mentor.” Give them some information on a mentoring program in your area. Or even better, call the program and give them a few names of your male friends. We’ll call them on your recommendation. (P.S. We need female mentors still, too, so you can volunteer as well if you’d like!)
Couples: Sometimes it’s easier for a married couple to mentor together. If a husband and wife volunteer together, we can match you with a male mentee. You can split the mentoring responsibilities between you. It’s a great activity to do together.
So what happened with our volunteer recruitment last fall? We put on a last-minute male mentor recruitment push. We had five men sign up, so we brought five new boys into our program.
There are mentoring programs throughout the Triangle that need your support. It takes men stepping up to the plate to make sure that our programs don’t struggle with this issue and that our society doesn’t fail our young men.
Graig Meyer is the coordinator of the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.