Having positive adult role models beyond parents and teachers in a young person's life is a clear indicator of future success, according the National Mentorship Partnership. This is especially true for young adults from low-income backgrounds and those who are at risk of falling off track. Luckily, Santa Fe has many resources for providing youth with tutoring and mentoring relationships, and the city is looking at how to expand these resources to reach even more students. On Sunday May 5, the city celebrates the success of existing tutoring and mentorship programs with a Festival of Learning at the Santa Fe Convention Center.
The festival is scheduled with student performances throughout the day and a live band, as well as a circus performance by Wise Fool and a flamenco performance by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Twenty-two local mentoring and tutoring organizations showcase their work at interactive booths, offering fun activities for kids and information for adults. Some of the organizations involved are INSPIRE Santa Fe, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Communities in Schools of New Mexico, Monte del Sol Charter School, STEM Scaffold Santa Fe, to name just a few.
The event is the result of three years of organizing by the Santa Fe Mentoring and Tutoring Collaborative, which is an outgrowth of Opportunity Santa Fe, an initiative by the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the City of Santa Fe Children and Youth Commission to align strategies and create a network of resources to improve the collective outcomes of the city's various youth-oriented programs.
"What we noticed was that there are a minimum of at least 20 different mentoring and tutoring organizations within the community, so we already had all these great resources, but it was hard for parents and volunteers to figure out where these different organizations were or what demographics they were serving," says Sarah Cheney, an AmeriCorps VISTA member who has worked with Opportunity Santa Fe on the initiative.
"The idea of the mentoring and tutoring collaborative was to create a centralized hub where anybody could come easily get that information, learn what the differences are between mentoring and tutoring; like, does my kid need literacy intervention, or do they need someone to support their passions and be a role model?" she says.
While celebrating the ongoing achievements of the organizations involved, the festival is also a call to action. Cheney tells SFR they have identified over 500 youth who are currently on wait lists for mentors and tutors. The collaborative hopes to sign up at least 100 new volunteers at the festival.
"There are so many different ways for people to get involved with our young people, and the biggest investment that any of us can make is giving of our time and engaging in these one on one connections," says Todd Lopez, a core organizer of the festival and one of the founders of INSPIRE Santa Fe, an organization that pairs high school students from schools around the city with professionals in fields that align with the student's interests.
For example, one student interested in the refugee crisis was paired with the Santa Fe Council on International Relations this year, and another student who expressed interest in chaos theory was paired with a mentor at the Santa Fe Institute. Many members of local government have become mentors through INSPIRE, including Mayor Alan Webber, who tells SFR he decided to get involved after he learned about the role positive impact the mentoring can have on student success rates.
Indeed, research done by the National Mentorship Partnership shows that at-risk youth who have a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions later in life. They are also 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and alcohol and 81% more likely to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.
When he saw these numbers, says Webber, he felt inspired to find a way for the city to get involved in expanding opportunities for young people. Looking forward, the mayor says that the city is working towards an ambitious goal:
"We ought to be the first city in America to say to our young people that if you want to have a mentor, you get one." This is the aspiration, says Webber, and the city is still figuring out how to create an actionable plan. "But I think what the city can do most effectively is to help build that coordinating platform. We live in a city where there are a significant number of older residents with great experiences of all kinds, and we have young people across the city who are looking for a mentor who can guide them and coach them with career skills and life skills, and what we don't have is a really effective matching system."
Festival of Learning
2-6 pm Sunday May 5. Free. Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 201 W Marcy St., 955-6590