"When I am not with her I miss her....when I am with her I am happy. She makes me believe in myself because she's always encouraging me to think positively about myself and what I'm able to do. She thinks I can do anything."
Mentee Jessica Schneider, Schenectady, NY
General Program Description
Mentoring USA, launched as the nation's first state-wide, school-based one-to-one mentoring program, provides one-to-one mentoring programs to enable children to achieve their potential. Its mission is to create sustained and supportive mentor relationships for children in need ages 7-21, building an enduring bond between a mentor and youth through which the mentee can find personal and academic support for his/her individual needs. Instilling a sense of self-esteem and a drive to succeed, and providing a strong and caring support system with effective role models, is imperative to enabling our youth to realize their potential. Mentoring USA believes that the presence of a caring adult in a young person's life increases self-esteem, strengthens relationships with peers and adults, improves academic performance and attendance and helps combat school drop-out.
Mentoring USA has provided mentors to over 5,000 children in need since it was founded in 1995, pairing youth across the country with inspirational adult mentors who can guide them in developing better self-esteem, creating healthy relationships, and making positive life choices. Mentoring USA provides structured, long-term site-based programs incubated in partnering schools, community centers, foster care agencies, and other non-profits. Many youth enter the program experiencing varying levels of educational difficulties or social challenges. Mentoring USA It is the only mentoring program with a special training component for foster care children and also has specific programs to target adopted youth as well as youth in foster care. Studies show that children who succeed despite enormous personal, economic or social obstacles often do so because of the presence of committed and competent role models who believe in them.
Achieving widespread success over the years, Mentoring USA has had a 100% success rate last year-with all students mentored at school-based and community center sites successfully graduating to the next grade level. As a result of the accomplishments of Mentoring USA's programs and initiatives, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently designated Mentoring USA as one of the official mentoring service providers for the New York City Service "Middle School Mentoring" campaign.
Mentoring USA's programs incorporate a number of initiatives that enable mentors to focus on their mentee's individual needs and help them achieve their potential. The program includes Financial Literacy (including a new Youth Empowerment through Entrepreneurship program), Healthy Lifestyles & Self Esteem, Art and Anti-violence initiatives that are incorporated into the program through activities and outside facilitators such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Through an A.C.E.S. for Kids grant from the USTA Serves Foundation, Mentoring USA has also added a tennis and education program to its healthy lifestyles curriculum in New York City, Newark, Las Vegas and Houston.
As a component of the healthy lifestyles program, adult mentors of at-risk youth across the country work with young people in a comprehensive wellness/nutrition/anti-obesity program to promote healthy lifestyle initiatives. Because of the strength of this program, renowned health expert Dr Mehmet Oz has partnered with Mentoring USA to train the Oz Health Corps volunteers in the Mentoring USA healthy lifestyles program.
Since its inception, Mentoring USA has expanded nationally across the United States, as well as internationally through Mentoring USA Italia, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008 and now has mentoring programs in place in Spain, Bulgaria, and Latvia.
Along with helping their mentees with school work and completing other Mentoring USA activities, including financial literacy, healthy lifestyles, anti-violence, art and other curriculum initiatives, mentors also play games that encourage socialization, provide guidance and advice, and simply listen to their mentee. Volunteer mentors are carefully screened, and all mentors commit to work with their mentee for a minimum of one year. While every mentoring relationship is unique, most mentors continue working with their mentees for many years playing an important role in enabling these youth to realize their potential. And the mentors benefit from the relationship as much as the mentees-both have a profound impact on each others' lives.
Mentoring USA Site-based Model
Through the Mentoring USA site-based model, mentors and mentees meet in a supervised environment at a set time and location-a format which not only allows for the volunteer mentors to properly manage their busy schedules, but also provides the much needed consistency to the mentoring relationship. One-to-one mentoring refers to each mentor being matched with one mentee so that they can focus their full attention on one youth and build a trusting relationship. Though mentors at our sites are matched with one youth, they are almost always in the presence of other mentors and mentees. This provides an added support mechanism along with the option of rewarding group activities and presentations. All mentors are asked to commit to mentoring for one school year for 4-6 hours per month; although many continue working with their mentee for two or more years.
Many corporations, organizations and government offices partner with Mentoring USA so that their employees can work as mentors, enabling both employees and their organizations to give back to their communities and building an esprit de corps among employees.
Mentoring USA programs are incubated in partnering schools, community centers, foster care agencies, and other non-profits. All sites are supported by MUSA Program Managers who work directly with Site Supervisors at each site to ensure that the programs run smoothly. These supervisors work together to build an environment that is comfortable for the mentor and mentee, as well as providing activities, on-going support, and training to everyone in the program. The Program Manager and Site Supervisor ultimately act as safety nets and support systems to mentors to ensure the growth between mentor and mentee.
Foster Care Programs
Mentoring USA's Foster Care program is uniquely designed to provide structured, one-to-one mentoring for youth in foster care through New York City. These programs follow the same important guidelines as the Mentoring USA general programs do, while expanding these important services to youth up to 21 years of age. When foster care children turn 21 years old and ‘age out' of the system, they are presented with a whole new set of challenges, many of which their mentors can help them overcome. As part of the foster care programming Mentoring USA also offers unique programs that link adopted youth with adults who were adopted. Mentoring USA's Foster Care program passionately aims to provide these youth with someone who cares, in order to develop a long term relationship increasing the likelihood of future success.
English Language Learners
The English Language Learners (ELL) program of Mentoring USA is strongly committed to improving literacy by assisting ELL students in grades 4-12. The ELL initiative is supported through the Union Square Partnership of New York City. Mentoring USA's goal is for ELL students to become proficient in the English language through focused, one-to-one mentoring. These ELL mentoring programs, while staying true to the guidelines set forth through MUSA's general programming, focus on activities that allow the mentor to aid the mentee in learning English. Most importantly, these programs provide a supportive atmosphere for youth who are facing the stress of recent immigration and the social struggles associated with their language barriers.
Career Development Initiative
The Career Development Initiative links adolescents throughout Mentoring USA's programs to career and educational opportunities. Mentees are given the tools to seize those opportunities in order to increase their chances of achieving a self-sufficient and successful future. The Career Program Manager delivers job readiness and placement services supported by the one-to-one relationship between mentor and mentee. Mentors help their mentee create an age appropriate "plan of action" where the mentee sets educational, vocational and/or career goals for themselves.
Special Program Components
Mentoring USA's programs incorporate a number of initiatives that enable mentors to focus on their mentee's individual needs and help them achieve their potential.
In addition to helping mentees with their academic work and providing personal support and encouragement, the Mentoring USA program includes a broad range of enriching curricula including Anti-Violence and Diversity, Healthy Lifestyles & Self Esteem, Arts and Artistic Development, and Financial Literacy initiatives that are incorporated into the program through activities and outside facilitators such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Anti-Violence and Diversity Initiative: BRAVE Juliana Training Program (Bias Related Anti-Violence Education)
The BRAVE Juliana (Bias Related Anti-Violence Education) program incorporates special training for our volunteer mentors so that they can effectively work with their mentees to teach them how to appreciate diversity, foster tolerance and live without hate and bullying. The program was renamed in honor of Juliana McCourt, a 4 year old girl whose life was lost with her mother Ruth on United Airlines Flight 175 on September 11, 2001.
The objectives of the BRAVE Juliana program are to:
- Increase understanding of American history including the immigration of people (past and present) who make up the diverse fabric of our nation;
- Promote awareness of and respect for cultural, religious, socio-economic, racial and sexual identity differences among people in New York City, America and the global community
- Reaffirm knowledge and respect for one's own culture and heritage in order to appreciate and respect the culture and heritage of others;
- Empower our children to see themselves as individuals who can make a positive impact in their own lives, their families and in their communities;
- Encourage a sense of compassion and respect for people as well as emphasizing strategic communication skills as an effective means to resolve conflict.
The goal of BRAVE Juliana is to measurably improve a child's chance of living a more harmonious, peaceful and productive life.
Healthy Lifestyles and Self-Esteem
Mentoring USA's Healthy Lifestyle & Self Esteem initiative aims to have the mentor serve as a model for healthy lifestyle choices and to help increase the mentees self-confidence. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 3 US children are overweight while 15% are obese. Through the Healthy Lifestyles program, adult mentors of at-risk youth across the country work with young people in a comprehensive wellness/nutrition/anti-obesity program to promote healthy lifestyle initiatives and increase self-esteem. Knowing the impact of poor food choices and physical inactivity, Mentoring USA's Healthy Lifestyles and Self-Esteem initiative provides interactive activities to increase a child's knowledge about nutrition, diet, physical activity, and the importance of sustainable health habits.
This initiative is supported through partnerships with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dr. Mehmet Oz's HealthCorps, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and NIKE. Because of the strength of Mentoring USA's Healthy Lifestyles program, renowned health expert Dr Mehmet Oz has partnered with Mentoring USA to train the Oz Health Corps volunteers in the Mentoring USA healthy lifestyles program.
Through an A.C.E.S. for Kids grant from the USTA Serves Foundation, Mentoring USA has also added a tennis and education program to its healthy lifestyles curriculum in New York City, Newark, Las Vegas and Houston.
The goal of the Financial Literacy initiative of Mentoring USA is to teach children the fundamentals of how to manage, budget, save, spend, and invest money. Supported by alliances including the NASDAQ Educational Foundation, Operation Hope, Citi, and NYU Stern, the goal of Financial Literacy is to measurably improve a child's chance of realizing financial independence. Mentors and mentees utilize the Citigroup Financial Education Curriculum, as well as Mentoring USA financial literacy activities with guest speakers and facilitators. Mentoring USA is also the mentoring provider for the Youth Financial Empowerment (YFE) Program in NYC. Through partnership with New Yorkers for Children, Citi, United Way, and the New York City Administration for Children's Services, this program provides financial literacy and mentoring for youth aging out of the foster care system.
Mentoring USA has also developed a Youth Empowerment through Entrepreneurship initiative to help youth learn to succeed by developing their entrepreneurial skills through a grant from the Virgin Unite Foundation.
Arts and Artistic Development
Mentoring USA's Arts Initiative is made possible in part by Material for the Arts, a NYC based non-profit that provides art supplies to organizations in need. Mentoring USA uses art projects to create bonds between mentors & mentees in the early stages of their relationship. These projects allow the mentoring match to work together in a creative way and are a means of eliciting meaningful conversation. Additionally, Mentoring USA recognizes that many youth are talented artists, yet they rarely have the opportunity to express themselves creatively due to cut-backs in art programs in schools. Therefore, mentors are encouraged to assist in their mentee's artistic development through projects incorporating a wide range of creative expression.
The Arts Initiative has also been utilized as a means of giving back to the community and teaching mentees the benefit of volunteering. Mentors and mentees have collaborated on projects, including making stuffed animals, which have then been donated to children's hospitals. They have also written letters to American service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ultimately, the benefits of the Arts Initiative enrich the mentee and mentor relationship and serve as a platform to inspire the altruistic spirit of giving back to the community, which in turn fulfills the goals of nurturing mentoring relationships and inspiring volunteerism.
Mentoring USA's Formative Years
Mentoring USA was founded by Matilda Raffa Cuomo in 1995, as the successor organization to the New York State Mentoring Program that she founded in 1987 at the suggestion of her husband, former Governor Mario Cuomo, that New York State needed to undertake measures to prevent high school drop-out. In 1995, Mrs. Cuomo established Mentoring USA to continue the goals of the New York State Mentoring Program after it was eliminated by the new administration. Thus began Mrs. Cuomo's lifelong commitment to mentoring to enable children to realize their potential.
Since then she has helped thousands of children through Mentoring USA.
To promote volunteerism and recruit more mentors, Mrs. Cuomo wrote a best-selling book, The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans Recall Their Mentors, with stories of eighty outstanding individuals from all walks of life recalling their mentors who inspired them during their formative years. The book was introduced and edited by Mrs. Cuomo with the foreword by Hillary Clinton, and was first published in June 1999 with the 2nd edition published in December 2002. Seventy-eight contributors - including, Joe Torre, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Powell, Diane Sawyer, Tony Bennett, Laurence Fishburne, and Governor Mario Cuomo - write about the people who had a lasting influence in their lives. All proceeds from sales of the book support Mentoring USA's programs.
[For additional information see History and Our Founder pages]
NOTE: You can also have a click-through to excerpts from Mrs. Cuomo's book about inspiring mentoring stories if Maria agrees.
Mentoring USA: Part of HELP USA's Umbrella of Services
Mentoring USA is part of the umbrella of programs and services under HELP USA, the country's largest provider of housing and jobs for the homeless. Instilling a sense of self-esteem and a drive to succeed, and providing a strong and caring support system with effective role models, is imperative to preventing homelessness in the next generation. HELP USA understands this and has made these goals a priority in the development and implementation of its programs for at-risk youth, homeless teenagers and families in crisis. HELP USA's youth programs include after school tutoring and one-to-one adult mentoring through Mentoring USA, as well as recreational programs, job readiness, teen employment assistance, higher education counseling and homeless prevention for at-risk youth.