The blog of the Urban Institute
August 24, 2016

Mentoring may help young men of color achieve academic success

August 25, 2016

Young men of color are falling behind in terms of academic success. They have lower college attendance rates than women or white men (34 percent for black and Hispanic men compared with 39 percent of black women, 42 percent of Hispanic women, and 38 percent of white men). Recognizing the enormous and disproportionate challenges that boys and young men of color face, many communities are working to improve opportunities for these young men and break down the barriers before them.

Research has a role to play here, particularly in answering the question: what interventions are most effective at improving the academic success of young men of color?

Some evidence suggests that mentoring can help young men of color succeed. Two of our recent evaluations support this theory.

The programs we evaluated provide services—including mentoring—for at-risk youth in the DC area. More than 90 percent of youth who apply to these two programs are either Latino or African American. Our evaluations found that both programs increased school enrollment for young men of color. 

  1. Urban Alliance provides job training, mentoring, and paid internships to seniors attending low-performing high schools in DC and Baltimore. Young men who were not offered the program were much less likely than women to attend college (50 percent versus 66 percent) and less likely to attend a four-year college (35 percent versus 53 percent). We found that Urban Alliance increased the likelihood of young men graduating high school, attending college (by 15 percentage points), and attending a four-year college (by 16 percentage points). In other words, the program helped men catch up to women in high school graduation and college attendance.
  2. The Latin American Youth Center’s Promotor Pathway program provides at-risk youth with a promotor who offers intensive case management, mentorship, and advocacy. The program’s goal is to improve education and employment outcomes and increase healthy behaviors. As with the Urban Alliance program, we found positive and significant impacts for young men on being in enrolled in school (19 percentage point increase) and on attending college (11 percentage point increase).

Although these two programs serve different youth and have different program components, they have both increased educational advancement for young men of color. While we can’t determine which aspects of these programs led to these results, the common element they share is mentoring—a powerful tool that research suggests may improve the academic success of young men of color.

Teacher Christina R. Martin tutors her 3rd Grade math students with flash cards during the George B. Thomas Learning Academy Saturday School at Wheaton High School in Silver Spring, MD on October 15, 2011. The George B. Thomas Learning Academy Saturday School offers tutoring and mentoring to low-income and disadvantaged students from k-12 and is a recipient of a grant from  the Washington Post Charities.  Photo by Nick Kirkpatrick for The Washington Post via Getty Images


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