Some 4,140 Oklahomans volunteered to mentor young people in their communities during Oklahoma’s Coaches’ Mentoring Challenge, a four-month campaign led by Oklahoma coaches and mentoring organizations to call for new mentors.

The Coaches’ Mentoring Challenge was started in 2008 as a friendly competition between mentoring advocates Coach Tom Osborne of the University of Nebraska and Coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State University to encourage fans to become mentors. Since then, many coaches from universities, colleges and secondary schools around the country have signed up to endorse mentoring. Oklahoma’s effort has been spearheaded by OU Coach Bob Stoops and OSU Coach Mike Gundy. This year, four participating states reported a total of 7,130 new mentors between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30.

“The real winner in this challenge is Oklahoma children who will benefit from the positive relationships and many positive outcomes that mentoring brings,” said Beverly Woodrome, director of the Boren Mentoring Initiative, Oklahoma’s administrative partner in the campaign. “We are grateful for the many Oklahoma coaches who helped promote mentoring in their communities, and we are thankful for the many mentoring programs in our network that participated and reported new mentor totals.”

This marks the third year that Oklahoma has participated in the challenge, which has grown steadily. In 2014, 3,340 Oklahomans signed up to mentor, and in 2015 some 3,821 new mentors were reported by participating mentoring organizations. This year’s campaign also saw a dramatic increase in participating Oklahoma coaches, with 424 from school districts and colleges across the state stepping up to endorse mentoring. Their endorsements were highlighted in a four-month-long social media and publicity campaign conducted by the Boren Mentoring Initiative.

“As natural and group mentors, coaches know firsthand the impact that a mentor can have in building skills, confidence and character in our young people,” Woodrome added. “By endorsing the Mentoring Challenge, they have sent a message that they value mentoring and see a critical need for more volunteer mentors for kids in their schools and communities.”

Several Oklahoma coaches also helped connect the Boren Mentoring Initiative to mentoring organizations in their communities, further expanding the statewide mentoring network, Woodrome added.

According to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, it is estimated that one in three children in the United States are in need of a mentor – someone to listen, to encourage and to set a positive example for them. In a survey of state mentoring organizations, the Boren Mentoring Initiative found that the greatest challenge facing mentoring programs was a shortage of volunteers. Woodrome noted that volunteers are needed to serve young people from Pre-K through young adults in college and career tech.

The Boren Mentoring Initiative is a program of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools. The mentoring initiative, named for foundation founder and chairman David L. Boren and his wife, Molly, grew out of Boren’s own commitment to mentoring and the proven impact it can have on a student’s success in and out of the classroom. The initiative was launched in 2006 to promote the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs statewide.

The initiative has created a directory of more than 160 mentoring partner organizations statewide and works with those organizations to recruit volunteers, offer resources and promote mentoring best practices. The initiative invites all Oklahoma mentoring programs to join its network free of charge.

The initiative also provides free consulting and resources for groups seeking to create new mentoring programs and hosts an annual Oklahoma Mentor Day, which honors outstanding mentors. Woodrome writes a blog, “The Oklahoma Mentor,” which provides a searchable database of mentoring ideas and best practices.

“We are happy to meet with schools, churches, businesses and others interested in starting a mentoring program in their community,” Woodrome said. “Through a statewide survey of mentoring organizations, we found that the most positive program outcomes were improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth.”

For more information on the Coaches’ Mentoring Challenge, visit www.okcoacheschallenge.org or contact Woodrome at (405) 236-0006; bwoodrome@ofe.org.