Countless programs have perfected the mentoring model between kids and adults. But what about a mentoring program for all adults?
For more than a decade, the nonprofit Circles USA has proved that mentors can help low-income adults thrive. Scott Miller started the organization (which pairs those struggling with poverty with higher-income coaches) back in 2000 as, according to the website, “a way to increase the capacities of communities to address poverty.” There are now local Circles branches in 23 states.
The mentors help guide their mentees through such important tasks as polishing a resume, negotiating debt repayments, setting up a bill-paying system, finding a job, and ensuring good childcare. Each week, participants meet together for support and to discuss life strategies.
Cynthia Bowers interviewed Miller in 2011 for CBS News. “If you’re in poverty in this country, it is just a day-to-day grind to get things done,” Miller said. “So very intelligent, very emotionally capable people are stuck in this cycle of non-stop problem solving. And so people coming along and lifting some of that burden is huge.”
But easing that burden is difficult. While Bowers noted that the drop out rate for the program is high — 58 percent — those who do stay involved in Circles reap big rewards: “Our research now shows that their income is going up on average 48 percent. Their assets are going up by 115 percent and their welfare is going down by 36 percent.”
In December, the Circles program in Coshocton, Ohio graduated its first class of leaders who will guide their own Circles groups. One of the new leaders is Larry Stottsberry, who told Mark Fortune of the Coshocton Beacon, “Being a veteran, being out of the military, and thinking you can be successful, sometimes you get down in a rut, something had to bring me out of it. This group brought me out…This is more about showing people that are struggling that you care about them when you are together. It’s more about helping each other out even if you don’t have anything to help them out with. It’s like my mom and dad always said, ‘Even though you don’t get anything for Christmas, it’s being there and sharing love.'”
With generous people like Larry Stottsberry signing on to help those less fortunate then themselves every year, the circle of success is bound to continue.