Research has shown the incredible impact mentors can make in all aspects of a child’s life. Children with mentors have increased school attendance, a better chance of going to college, and more positive attitudes toward learning. They are also less likely to engage in risky decision making, like abusing drugs and alcohol, and generally have better relationships with their parents. However, there exists a gap in the number of mentors that are available and the need that exists in communities across the country, especially for young men. To address this issue, our friends at Esquire Magazine recently launched their own mentoring project as a way to encourage men to get more involved. In honor of National Mentoring Month, we wanted to share their story with you.
“I wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps.”
Few words from a son can swell a father with so much pride. But from a man who said them recently, the words carried sober regret. This man, one of the millions of men in U.S. prisons, recalled how his father, his role model, drank six to eight quarts of beer a night; how, in emulating his dad, he began drinking before he was a teenager; and when, no longer a boy, he played a role in ending another man’s life.
For his crime, this man has spent much of his life in a prison where our partners at Barton F. Graf 9000 captured his story. I’ll tell you more about the agency’s film in a moment. But first it’s worth noting that, like other men in the documentary, this man appears nameless. And perhaps that’s fitting. It seems of late that we’ve been neglecting boys and turning them into forgotten men.
“If you are a boy in America today,” Andrew Chaikivsky wrote in our magazine, “you are more likely to drop out of school, less likely to go to college, and far more likely to abuse alcohol or go to prison or kill yourself than the girl sitting next to you in class.”
Some of that might be surprising, but it’s hardly news. Almost a decade ago, Esquire scribe Tom Chiarella also noted the problem with boys, and called our readers to action. “Men have to be willing to care about the way boys are being treated, taught, and cared for in this country and advocate for them,” he wrote. “Young men, men without children, must take a stake and volunteer to coach, to counsel, to read to kids. You can’t wait for fatherhood to hit you in the face. Men whose children are grown must mentor a new generation of children.”
It’s with this in mind that we launched the Esquire Mentoring Initiative last year. In October, we devoted our magazine to the topic of mentorship. We asked 50 extraordinary men to tell us about their mentors — the people who made them the men they are today. And we created an online database of Esquire-recommended mentoring organizations in the nation’s largest cities.
We also rebranded the concept of mentoring by partnering with three of the country’s most creative teams: 72andSunny, Makeable and Barton F. Graf 9000, the agency that captured the prisoners’ stories. Those stories turned into a short documentary on The Mentor Act, a bill that makes mentoring a legal excusal from jury duty. The idea: Stay out of the court system by helping boys stay out of the court system.
Some might say a magazine has no business in the mentoring business. But there’s a compelling, urgent rationale for what we’re doing. “At a time when more boys are growing up without involved fathers, the idea of strong male role models has been compromised by darkened perceptions of coaches and priests and, yes, even the Boy Scouts,” David Granger, our editor in chief, wrote in October. “Yet mentoring — one-on-one life coaching — is among the few strategies that have proven to have a positive impact on the lives of boys.”
We invite you to help us expand that positive impact. If you’re on this site, there’s a good chance that you’re a father who’s already involved in your child’s life. If that’s true, please join us at the Dad 2.0 Summit in February, where we’ll explore the intersection of mentorship and fatherhood, or at the National Mentoring Summit later this month.
But please don’t wait another moment to start doing something. Whether you’re a father or not, go mentor someone else’s child — especially a boy who doesn’t have a father, or one whose father isn’t around to be a mentor. You can find your future mentee on our database of mentoring organizations, at mentoring.esquire.com. Most of them have dozens of boys on waiting lists, waiting for a mentor like you.