Philanthropy beat: Male mentors wanted for kids

It’s the latest documented gender gap in Minnesota, but one that could be readily fixed.

Two of every three Minnesotans who are mentoring young people are women, according to a survey released this month. But nearly half the kids getting mentored are boys.

Likewise 60 percent of the kids waiting for mentors are boys.

There’s nothing wrong with women mentoring boys and young men, the report stressed. But research has shown that some of the most effective mentoring comes from matching youth and mentors of the same sex.

“The good news is a lot of women are stepping up to the plate,” said Joellen Gonder-Spacek, executive director of Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota, which conducted the survey of the 300 state mentoring programs.

“But we’d love to have more men,” she said. “We know that boys who are connected to men in mentoring relationships benefit, particularly when they don’t have caring, positive adult male role models in their lives.”

Plus, men and women often relate differently to children, she said. Women typically enjoy talking with children and getting to know them in that way. Men typically enjoy sharing sports and other activities, which is something boys may prefer.

Minnesota is a national leader in the field of mentoring, said Gonder-Spacek, linking 41,000 mentors to 197,000 young folks.

Programs range from after-school activities that focus on academics, to Big Brothers Big Sisters, to programs that link juvenile offenders with athletes. More than 80 percent serve middle school and high school students.

Most programs require a commitment of nine months to a year, Gonder-Spacek said. Eight-six percent of the programs surveyed said their mentors stayed as long as promised, or continued longer.

“The biggest hurdle is getting people signed up,” she said. “Once they do, they typically end up enjoying it as much as the kids.”

For more information, go to www.mpmn.org.

 

Jean Hopfensperger • 612 673-4511

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