According to the National Mentoring Partnership, young people in the U.S. are experiencing a mentorship gap of 9 million — meaning that one in three goes without the support of a positive, caring adult outside of their family. 

To address this gap locally, Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) launched a mentoring initiative in 2017 that is going strong, entering its fifth year. 

For young people, having a mentor to provide support, guidance, and encouragement helps develop self-esteem, academic & social skills, and career prospects. 

“My mentor is kind, helpful, and always there for me when I need her,” said Lamiah McFadden of Foreign Language Academy in a mentor tribute video she made. 

The mentoring programs are netting positive results. Here’s just a few of their numbers:  

  •  KCPS found that 9th-grade students with a mentor had 10% higher attendance than their peers without a mentor. 
  • High school students with a career mentor were 13.8% more likely to take an advanced class. 
  • They also found  that 95% of K-5 students said having a mentor made them feel special. 

Kansas City Public Schools currently has four mentoring programs:

  • Lunch Buddies, which matches mentors with elementary school students in grades K-5 to eat lunch together and provide support and encouragement.
  • Success Mentors, which matches mentors with middle school students in grades 6-9 to help them stay on track academically and develop positive relationships.
  • Career Mentors, which matches mentors with high school students in grades 10-12 to help them explore career options and prepare for college or the workforce.
  • R.I.S.E., a college and career readiness mentoring program open to all grade 9-12 students, but is particularly designed to support students of color.

Looking for Mentors

By many metrics, the mentoring initiative in the KCPS has been a success, including an  Outstanding Educational Achievement Program Award from the South Kansas City Alliance.  

But the demand for mentors has outstripped the supply. 

Last year 1,259 students were served with a mentor and they hope to grow that number to 1,600 this year. Ideally, the school district would like 50% of the student population to have a dedicated mentor, but, first, they need volunteers. 

To be a mentor in the KCPS, you need to be over 18 years old and pass a criminal background check. No special skills are required, and training is provided. You can choose the program, school, and age of the student you’d like to work with.

Mentors meet with their mentees two to four times monthly for 20 to 30 minutes. Signups are year-round, with monthly training sessions available. 

Mentors report satisfaction with the program, with 83% saying they feel like they make a difference in their mentee’s life and 90% saying they made a personal connection with the student.

How to Get Involved

If you are interested in becoming a mentor, here are the steps you need to take:

  • Visit KCPublicSchools.org/mentoring.
  • Select the program you are interested in.
  • Complete the online application.
  • Attend a training session.
  • Complete a background check.
  • Get matched with a student.