We can all agree that navigating the halls of middle and high school can be tough.
In a world where mental health for teenagers is at an all time low and social media has students feeling worse about themselves compared to any generation before them – the world can feel on the edge of societal collapse. It can all feel like a lot, not to mention changing hormones.
For youth that participate in STOKED, 93% of whom identify as people of color and 90% who come from low income families – navigating this period between childhood and adulthood can be especially challenging.
I recently read a research study that confirmed what we’ve been working towards for more than 16 years at STOKED: social support is what makes a person feel supported so that they are able to navigate the rough waters of school, and life overall.
In this study performed by Simone Schnall of University of Plymouth in England, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports how participants perceived the idea of climbing a steep hill – something that felt hard both physically and mentally. What they discovered was fascinating and affirming to our program at STOKED.
This study found that, “When judging the steepness of a hill, people overestimated its angle more when alone compared to when they were accompanied by—or even thinking about—a friend,” the article states.
People literally mismeasure when they feel like they have to navigate challenges all on their own. Think about that for our youth.
Furthermore, the study indicates that when the volunteers had been friends with their companions, the hill seemed even less steep.
Shocking right? The simplicity of having a friend or mentor – someone who has your back – nearby physically or in thought can make a person navigate their challenges more easily.
The first-time skaters, surfers and snowboarders who come through the STOKED program are learning so much more than an action sport. Perhaps what this research proves is that the most important thing is the fact our mentees think it’s possible because of the STOKED mentors.
For any youth, feeling supported while discovering what is possible is limitless – and our mentors who donate over dozens of hours of their time each year play a huge role in our mentees feeling like they can do anything.