The White House FY19 budget proposal slashes investment in programs serving young people and communities across the country. As we look ahead with uncertainty about how Congress will act on the budget request, we are clear about this: Budgets are reflections of our values and ambitions. When we cut funding for programs that keep children safe, boost family stability, and help communities thrive, we make a statement about who and what we prioritize and we jeopardize our future prospects in a global economy. We stand with colleagues and partners who are responding to a budget that calls for divestment in proven solutions including national service, after-school programs, and aid for food, housing, and college.
We in the mentoring movement stand for the limitless potential of young people when they receive support with critical needs and can drive toward their aspirations. We stand for calling our fellow Americans together to make the youngest and most vulnerable a priority, driving investment of time and funds and building policy that will fuel expanded quality mentoring and strengthen communities. We are clear that what’s best for our present and future as a nation requires the kinds of supports and connections that both experience and proof demonstrate are needed for healthy development and safe, thriving communities.
Mentoring programs provide young people with the social capital, confidence and support they need to thrive in their personal lives, at school and eventually at work. These programs mobilize millions of volunteers, threading together our communities, calling us to one another and to cost effective solutions in thousands of communities from Appalachia to Boise to Boston. Mentoring reduces juvenile delinquency and crime, improves school attendance, increases high school graduation rates, and lowers risk of youth involvement in unsafe and costly behaviors such as drug and alcohol use.
If the White House funding levels were to be enacted by Congress, the Youth Mentoring Grant housed at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will have been cut by more than 25 percent since FY17. This program is grounded in evidence-based research to deliver positive and proven outcomes including social development and academic achievement. It builds strong bridges between research and practice and has resulted in customized, locally grounded technical assistance for hundreds of organizations who improved their service to more than 75,000 young people in the last year alone.
Cuts to federal funding mean mentoring and youth-serving organizations must close doors to expanding opportunity for young people, leaving many of them without places to turn for positive, healthy and supportive relationships and development. This isn’t only bad news for our young people – it’s bad news for all of us. Cuts like these don’t reflect public opinion. Recent polling shows that 88 percent of Americans believe more mentoring for young people is necessary, and more than 80 percent believe we need government investment to get there.
To our champions in Congress: we now look to you to stand up for our shared values of inclusion, opportunity, and justice for all. Investing in young people means investing in their present and all of our futures.
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