University of Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne tells the Step Up for Kids rally at the Capitol that Nebraska needs to invest in its children.
“Probably never has been a more difficult time to be a young person in the history of our nation than today,” Osborne tells those attending the rally.
Osborne says the statistics point to a gloomy present for youth that undermines their future. Approximately 40% of America’s youth are growing up in broken homes. Around 25 million children have no father in the home. Some don’t know who their father is.
Such bleak numbers led Osborne and his wife, Nancy, to found the Teammates mentoring program in 1991. Osborne says the program started small. He began with 22 players from his Cornhusker football team who spent at least one hour each week with 7th and 8th Grade Lincoln schoolchildren. All of the children involved struggled in school and the likelihood of graduation was bleak. Osborne reports that 21 of the 22 children involved that first year graduated high school. Eighteen went on to college.
Teammates has grown to mentor 5,000 children in 120 communities in Nebraska and Iowa.
Osborne says mentoring works, because it demonstrates to young people that someone cares and it provides much needed affirmation for youth. Mentoring, according to Osborne, also provides a vision of what’s possible.
“A lot of young people grow up without any idea that they could possibly graduate from high school, because they may not have seen anybody around them who has done so. They may not have any idea they could ever go to college, because they’ve never experienced that in their immediate family or in surrounding family,” according to Osborne. “And so, their vision of the future is very limited.”
Osborne says he has observed the success of mentoring. School attendance improves. Behavior at school improves and the need for disciplinary action falls. Grades improve markedly.
The Step Up for Kids Rally was sponsored by Voices for Children.