Your school can’t afford to not address this 1 common and serious issue

June 18, 2018

Schools need their students to have self-esteem. 

This is not only because it is a key factor in long-term success in youth.  It is very much because a lack of self-esteem is a barrier to academic and social success and a gateway to a variety of behavioral issues.  Schools simply do not function well when self-esteem is a widely unmet need in their student population. 

But participation trophies aren’t the answer.  Neither are compliments from parents. Quite perceptively, children believe that their parents are biased.  And even when parents are accurate, their praise is often meaningless because children and adolescents believe their parents have to think they’re great.

That’s why relationships with adults and older youth who are not part of the immediate family are so important.  A youth develops self-confidence when someone who doesn’t have to care about them, cares about them, and when someone who doesn’t have to think highly of them, expresses that very sentiment.  And that’s where schools step in. Schools can provide mentoring programs that develop authentic self-esteem for their students.

The research supports this connection.

Studies of mentoring programs have repeatedly shown gains in youth self esteem. A study of the New York chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America found that 83% of their mentees had great improvement in self esteem1. The SMILE (Study of Mentoring in the Learning Environment) study of over 512 mentored youth in San Antonio, found significant gains in self-esteem in their respondents as well2.   Yet, another study found that expanding a youth’s network of social support by providing a mentor increased their self esteem3. In fact, Mentoring has been theorized to be one of the most key factors in the development of self-esteem of high risk youth4.

But there’s another reason why mentoring programs are the perfect vehicles for self esteem development.  Good mentoring programs give real-world opportunities to succeed; opportunities to develop talents and produce tangible accomplishments.  The moment someone experiences actual success is the moment they begin to believe in themselves.  It is the moment they become invested in their own success. And when it is their school that is providing them with that experience of success, they become invested in their school and school community as well.


1 Frecknall, P. & Luks, A. (1992). An evaluation of parental assessment of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program in New York City. Adolescence, 27(107), p. 715-718.

2 Herrera, C. & Karcher, M.J. (2005). School-Based Mentoring. In D.L. Dubois & M.J. Karcher (Eds.). Handbook of youth mentoring. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.

3 Dubois, D.L., Neville, H.A., Parra, G.R., & Pugh-Lilly, A.O. (2002). Testing a new model of mentoring. New Directions for Youth Development, 93, 21-57.

4 Yancey, A.K. (1998) Building positive self-image in adolescents in foster care: The use of role models in an interactive group approach.Adolescence, 33, 253-267.

Dr. Jeffrey Kranzler, Ph.D., LCSW-C has provided mentoring consulting to organizations such as Johns Hopkins University’s A-Level Capital and Covenant house of New York.  he has established multiple successful school-based mentoring programs.  To learn more about his work visit and to learn more about the outcomes his school-based mentoring programs produce, visit

Become a mentor today