it's why we're here
In Northern Virginia, more than 30,000 children live below the federal poverty level. For many children, living in poverty can significantly compromise their development and lead to teen pregnancy, greater risk of dropping out of high school, and lower earnings as a young adult.
Furthermore, approximately 62,000 students in Northern Virginia have limited English proficiency, and 43 percent come from immigrant families. studies show that children of immigrants experience greater social isolation in the school setting and participate in fewer extracurricular activities. High school dropout rates are also disproportionately high among Hispanic and African America high school students. In Northern Virginia, nearly half of all dropouts are Hispanic and about one-fifth of all dropouts are African American.
Northern Virginia’s high cost of living can make it more difficult for low-income families to make ends meet. SOHO aims to reach these disadvantaged youth and provide them with life skills instruction and creative mentorship.
Disadvantaged children who are mentored are 60 percent more likely to graduate from high school and are 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs. $120,000 is the estimated cost of incarcerating one youth for a year. The cost of helping to prevent this incarceration is just a few hours per week of volunteering as a mentor.
Mentoring has been proven to prevent:
- Teen parenthood
- Drug abuse
- Lack of confidence
- D’s and F’s
- Ditching class
- Couch potatoes
- Alexandria has the highest rate of children qualifying for free and reduced lunches in Northern Virginia with more than 50 percent of students participating in the Free or Reduced Price School Lunch Program.
- In Arlington, more than 6,000 kids eat a free or reduced price lunch each day.
Source: A Portrait of Children in Northern Virginia 2010: A report presented by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia and Voices for Virginia's Children
All SOHO participants have shown significant improvement in developmental assets and life skills. 94% of the 156 girls served by SOHO have not become court involved and 85% have maintained long-term mentoring relationships. SOHO provides a safe and structured learning environment that promotes mentor/mentee bonding. Unlike other mentor programs, mentor matches are not made until several meetings have taken place and natural bonds have been established. There are mentoring organizations in the DC Metro Region and there are arts organizations, but no single organization combines mentoring and the arts in a way that meets so many needs of disadvantaged youth in a manner that is also incredibly engaging. SOHO maintains a waiting list of interested participants and volunteers.