According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, juvenile arrest rates in the United States decreased 36 percent between 1996 and 2009. In 2009, there were 5,804 teenage arrests for every 100,000 youths ages 10 through 17 in the United States. This is great news, especially when you couple it with the statistic reporting that all crime in the United States decreased by a little more than 20 percent between 1996 and 2009.
Although the reasons behind this crime decrease are not explicitly stated, I would like to think that the proactive work of our nation’s volunteer youth mentors has played a small role.
When you volunteer as a mentor for at-risk youth, you are providing children with the support they so need and deserve. Everyone needs a good example to follow, and youth mentor programs give children and teenagers the chance to learn by positive example and support.
If you are looking for an opportunity to make an impact in the future of today’s youth, consider volunteering your time and support to an at-risk youth mentoring program. To get you started, I have listed below the names of some well-known mentoring programs in the United States:
1. Big Brothers Big Sisters: This national program pairs one child with a “role model.” This one-on-one relationship is fostered through trust and real friendship. You will visit with your “Little” a few hours a day, a few days per month and give the child the opportunity to do things they enjoy (playing board games, creating crafts, going to a dance class, etc). The goal of this program is to offer the child a new perspective on life and help them realize the potential for life.
2. National Mentoring Partnership: This 23-state mentoring partnership serves as a one-stop shop for information and resources on at-risk youth mentoring opportunities. Each of the individual state mentoring organizations works with a wide range of programs within their state to foster and improve the quality of at-risk youth mentoring.
3. Other Local Programs: Most cities (especially in urban areas) have their own independent volunteer mentor programs. To find these, use an online volunteer search site (like volunteermatch.org). You can also call your local school district to ask them about any programs they may be aware of or involved with.
Be advised that all volunteer mentor programs require all potential volunteers to provide references. One-on-one interviews and background checks are also required before acceptance to the program.
Remember, crime rates may be decreasing, but the need for positive, adult role models will never decline.
Shannon Barnett owns the site Careers in Criminal Justice. In her spare time, she enjoys writing articles for various other sites on many topics of interest.