Oprah Winfrey, who has one of the most remarkable modern “rags to riches” stories and faced many challenges in her early years, once said: “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”Winfrey is just one of a growing number of people of achievement who look back and appreciate the effect a mentor had on changing their lives for the better.In 2002, then-US president George W. Bush initiated National Mentoring Month, which is held in January every year to highlight the act of mentoring, which is a critical component in young people’s lives, helping them make the decisions and connections that lead to improved opportunities. The highlight of this month is International Mentoring Day, which is held globally on January 17.At Kav L’Noar, we help struggling youth and their families build the relationships and skills they need to secure a more positive future, and mentoring is one of our most powerful tools.We believe that mentoring affects youth through three interrelated processes.Firstly, by enhancing a youth’s social relationships and emotional well-being. Secondly, by improving their cognitive skills through instruction and conversation, and thirdly, by promoting positive identity development through serving as role models and advocates. It can change both how a young person views him or herself and their future and how they interact and connect with others, and provide real-time support in both a mentee’s academic and personal life. The research shows that the closer the emotional connection between mentor and mentee, the better the outcome.According to research in the US, with a mentor, at-risk youth are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college, 46% less likely than their peers to start using drugs and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. These figures clearly demonstrate that mentoring can have a major impact on a person’s life, perhaps in a way that few other treatments and therapies can match.William W. Hartup, a renowned children’s development psychologist, spoke about a child’s relationships perhaps being the greatest indicator of their effectiveness to function as adults. “The single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is NOT IQ, NOT school grades, and NOT classroom behavior, but rather the adequacy with which the child gets along with other children. Children who are generally disliked, who are aggressive and disruptive, who are unable to sustain close relationships with other children, and who cannot establish a place for themselves in the peer culture are seriously ‘at risk.’” All of this means that perhaps we should focus a little less on standard therapies or pharmaceutical drugs and more on providing those relationships which help a child or youth develop into a more effective, healthy and successful adult.While mentoring is becoming more prolific as an alternative to therapy in Israel it is still largely underappreciated and underdeveloped here.Many Israeli children, as elsewhere around the world, suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a group of five disorders characterized by delays in the development of multiple basic functions including socialization and communication.Mentoring provides a structure and natural boundaries, which is especially helpful for those dealing with these conditions, and emotional and social support which children with ADHD are more likely to need than average children as it’s more difficult for them to hold down friendships and other social ties.It is also especially good for children with PDD because they are socially isolated, and struggle with social anxiety.The central focus of mentoring is that it provides ready-made structured experiential social interaction, providing them a safe place to practice social skills with someone who won’t give up and walk away if they can’t respond in a normative manner.Mentoring is also good for those who suffer from depression. Unlike regular friendships, it’s a relationship that’s not dependent on when they feel like doing something together, or what they put in, because it takes the form of regular meetings and the mentor will carry on with the support regardless. At Kav L’Noar we regularly see how the mentoring relationship is especially helpful for children and youths with these and other conditions and how it really works. At our organization, alongside native Israelis, we work with the Anglo and French immigrant communities. We believe that mentoring can be especially beneficial for young immigrants because it creates a strong and stable relationship with someone in the new country, on many occasions with someone who might have gone through a similar experience.Mentoring is obviously not the panacea for all conditions and situations, but as is written in Proverbs: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”Meaning that it is our relationships which can come to shape and mold us, and, as especially in the case of mentors, our hopes, aspirations and successes.Israel should join the US in providing greater recognition to this powerful and effective tool to assist our youths to attain their potential.The author is the CEO of Kav L’Noar and can be contacted at www.kavlnoar.org.