Mentorship Matters

Lewis Dunkeson, Student Support Coordinator at Fort Scott Middle School, receives a check for $5,000 to support the school’s mentorship program from Bill Michaud, owner of Sleep Inn & Suites, Fort Scott, Kansas.

Suze Orman, a bestselling author and TV personality who writes about personal finance, says this about mentorship: She writes, “the key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are.” In other words, the vision of mentorship programs isn’t one of molding young people to make the same choices as their mentors, but to develop the skills, resources, and self-esteem that enable them to make those choices for themselves. This vision of mentoring is seen in countless programs across the country, including the work at Fort Scott High School, one of the sites served by Communities In Schools of Mid-America.

According to youth.gov[1], mentoring has benefits not only for students but for the mentors themselves. Youth who work with a mentor show increased high school graduation rates and lower dropout rates, healthier relationships and lifestyle choices, improved behavior at home and school, a decreased likelihood of drug and alcohol use, and stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers.

Mentors express a sense of accomplishment in working with youth, including many other benefits such as increased self-esteem, personal growth, and satisfaction that their work is meaningful.

Partnerships matter, too. In Fort Scott, a generous grant from Sleep Inn & Suites, in collaboration with the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce, helped re-ignite a mentorship program that had been discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Providing students with mentors adds another positive relationship in their life, a connection to their community, and exposure to a variety of other resources to help them be successful,” said Bill Michaud, Owner & Manager of Sleep Inn & Suites in Fort Scott.

“As a first-generation college graduate, I don’t know what my future would look like without the mentors in my life that have helped me navigate life’s challenges,” said Lewis Dunkeson, Student Support Coordinator for CIS of Mid-America at Fort Scott High School. Lewis is deeply involved in the mentorship program, which began holding regular events earlier this year and a regular luncheon to promote the connection between students and their mentors.

Lindsay Madison, CEO of the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce, says that “the mentoring program allows our students to experience our community as a young professional. Our group of mentors opens doors and creates connections that may last a lifetime. We are building professional relationships that bridge the present to the future of Fort Scott.”

With 46 million young people aged 8-18 living in America, mentorship programs like those at Fort Scott High School are vital. MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership[2] reports that one out of every three young people do not have a trusted adult they can turn to for guidance and support. That’s 16 million youth in need of a caring adult to help them face day-to-day challenges and empower them to succeed in school and in life.

At Communities In Schools of Mid-America, we work in over 70 schools with more than 39,000 students each year, placing individuals directly inside the schools to work with students. Our mission is to provide students with a community of support, helping to lessen the burden on teachers and addressing the unique needs of each student as we partner with teachers, parents, and community resources.

Mentorship is essential to young people’s emotional, mental, and educational outlook. Programs like the one at Fort Scott have the potential to make a real difference in the lives of students and community members. If you are interested in forming a mentorship program at your school, or if you are an organization willing to sponsor a program, please get in touch with Rachel Smith, Senior Program Director, at rachel.smith@cismidamerica.org.


[1] https://youth.gov/youth-topics/mentoring/benefits-mentoring-young-people

[2] https://www.mentoring.org/