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Recommendations for Mentoring Programs

Individual career mentoring and school-based mentoring programs help students and professionals of all ages to be successful at work and in life.

A mentor is a person with professional or personal experience who counsels and guides a younger or less-experienced person. The mentor-mentee relationship can be an informal personal or career connection, or part of a formal mentoring program administered by a company, school program, or community group.

Mentoring programs typically pair people together for a set amount of time, such as one semester or one year. An informal mentoring relationship can last several years. Most mentor relationships are self-directed, with the participants determining their own schedule and objectives.

The mentee can be a child, teen, or adult of any age. Mentors are often adults, but teens can mentor younger students. Mentoring relationships can focus on specific topics or goals, such as personal growth, career development, academic achievement, lifestyle changes, or other areas the mentoring pair choose. Most mentoring programs sponsored by schools or workplaces focus on career or education goals.

Both the mentor and the mentee can gain skills and experience in goal setting, completing plans, interpersonal communications, teamwork, and leadership. Mentoring also helps people to gain confidence, personal empowerment, self-efficacy, self-knowledge, and other employability skills needed for the world of work.

Best Practices for Administering a Youth Mentoring Program

  • Have a plan that includes a clear process for selecting prospective mentors and mentees.
  • Develop a background check procedure for prospective mentors.
  • Have a matching process that connects mentors with mentees with similar career interests.
  • Require pre-mentorship training. Topics may include: school or workplace rules of conduct, safety, or communication skills.
  • Prior to the pairs' first meeting, have orientation activities for mentees and mentors to introduce the guidelines of the program.
  • Require a written mentorship agreement for all participants that include: expectations; length of relationship, number and location of mentorship meetings; description of the evaluation process; and signatures.
  • Have mentoring activities supervised by an educational institution or similar agency.
  • Monitor the quality of the mentorship. Have the mentee maintain a journal to record and reflect on discussions with the mentor.
  • One of the outcomes of the program could be for mentors to help mentees create a portfolio describing the mentee's career interests, goals, and other information.
  • Recognize mentors for their service through program-sponsored activities.

School-based mentoring program activities occur mostly at middle or high schools and during school hours. School-based programs help students meet their need for positive adult contact, and provide one-on-one support and advocacy.

Positive mentoring experiences have proven to be an effective tool to help youth improve their relationships with family and friends, and overcome the risk factors that can lead to academic problems, dropping out of school, violent behaviors, involvement in criminal activities, and drug abuse. Research shows that students involved in school-based mentoring programs are less likely than their peers to repeat a grade, and their average number of unexcused absences dropped.

Characteristics of School-Based Mentoring

  1. Teachers or school personnel refer students to the program who could benefit from adult support.
  2. Mentors commit to meeting with the students typically for one hour each week throughout the school year.
  3. Mentors meet one-on-one with the student at the school, during the school day.
  4. Mentors and students might spend time on school work, however, most of their time is engaging in interpersonal activities, such as playing sports and games, exploring the Internet, doing artwork, writing a story, eating lunch together, or just talking. The purpose of the meetings is to build a positive, supportive relationship.

Monitoring the Mentor-Mentee Relationship

Below are questions to support and monitor a mentor relationship that is part of a school-based or other youth mentoring program. It's important to have mentees and mentors check-in with one another at least once a month (preferably weekly), and with teachers about every three months. Regularly scheduled check-ins allows program administrators to see how the mentor-mentee relationship is developing and if there are any problems.

Mentor Check-In

  • What activities do you and the mentee do during your weekly meetings?
  • What would you like to change about the visits or activities?
  • How well do you think you're communicating with each other?
  • How do you feel that the mentee is responding to your friendship?
  • How do you think the student is doing in school, home life, and relationships with parents, siblings and peers?
  • What changes do you perceive in the mentee, both positive and negative?
  • Are you satisfied with how things are going in the mentor pairing?
  • How are things going with the teacher and other school staff?
  • Is there any training you think would be helpful for you?
  • Is there anything else school or program staff should be aware of?

Mentee Check-In

  • How often do you see your mentor?
  • What do the two of you do together?
  • Do you like talking to your mentor?
  • Is there anything you would like to change about the visits?

Teacher/Program Staff Check-In

  • What do you think of the mentee's weekly activities with the mentor?
  • How would you like to see the activities change?
  • How do you think the mentee feels about the mentor?
  • How is the mentee doing in school or in other relevant programming?
  • Have you observed any positive or negative changes in the mentee?
  • Is there anything else school or program staff should be aware of?

Youth Mentoring Program Resources

Resources for Mentors

Adapted from: Connecting Youth to Work-Based Learning: Blueprint for a Quality Program, Minnesota Department of Education, 2003 and Technical Assistance Packet #1: The ABC's of School-Based Mentoring, Linda Jucovy, The National Mentoring Center.