Talbot Mentors, a nonprofit youth mentoring program was established in 1997 following two local incidences of patricide. Founder Phil Kirby, a retired insurance executive, participated in community meetings and concluded that adults needed to be involved in the lives of children in a more organized way.
Since its inception, Talbot Mentors has paired volunteer mentors one-on-one with local children in need. Participants meet 1-2 hours a week outside of school. Popular mentoring activities include sports and outdoor activities, arts and crafts, attending community events, reading and doing homework and eating together.
While the local school system and child/family serving agencies offer important services, what Talbot Mentors provides is matchless: a longstanding intergenerational relationship.
Currently, 70% of the 60+ mentor-mentee matches are in their second year or beyond. This milestone is significant as research shows that the longer mentoring relationships last the more likely youth are to experience positive, lasting benefits such as improved attendance, better attitudes toward school, less drug and alcohol use, more positive attitudes toward helping in general, and improved relationships with parents and elders.
Talbot County, located on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore, is characterized as an affluent, graying community. Yet, according to the Eastern Shore School Superintendent, rural children are challenged with burdens as profound as the more commonly targeted urban children. The area includes poor children who lack support that is common in middle class households, which promote academic success. These students also experience inadequate supervision, instability at home, and limited participation in healthy out of school activities.
Substance abuse is also a challenge among area adolescents. Sadly, tobacco, alcohol, and other drug (ATOD) use rates, as reported by Talbot teens, while historically high, have increased over the last five years. In 2006, area 8th, 10th and 12th graders reported the highest ATOD rates in the state.
Fortunately, mentoring is a proven strategy for mitigating the impact of these risk factors by meeting key youth needs for access to safe places, challenging experiences, and relationships with caring adults. Talbot Mentors program is developed around the research-based practices (volunteer screening, mentor training, matching procedures, and ongoing support/supervision of participants) that researchers identify as prerequisites to an effective mentoring program.
In addition to its core mentoring services, Talbot Mentors also provides enrichment services: homework help, mentor-mentee and family activities, service learning projects (for 2006-07 school year, mentees completed 960+ hours of community service), and summer camp scholarships.
Talbot Mentors' participants report high levels of satisfaction, which like longevity, is correlated to achieving positive outcomes for mentored youth. Among our volunteers, 80% describe their mentoring experience as enjoyable or very enjoyable. Regarding the impact of mentoring:
Sixty-five percent of volunteers report their mentee is more involved in healthy out of school activities than before and 90% report that their mentee feels there are more adults he/she can count on.
Mentees are equally positive. Our youth, through the national Youth Survey, have consistently indicated levels of satisfaction that meet, and more often, exceed the survey benchmarks.