Mentoring is a powerful tool that can positively affect the lives of at-risk children. The goal is to provide vulnerable youth with supportive relationships, thus allowing them to connect to channels for personal growth and educational support.
School-based mentoring programs are a win-win solution, reaching volunteers and youth who do not participate in community-based programs. While relatively new, these programs have grown in popularity over the last several years. To date, approximately 30 percent of mentoring programs are located in schools’and such programs are continuing to expand at record rates. Matching youth with a school-based mentor, gives them someone to provide additional support, be a positive role model, and a friend. Research shows that after being matched with a mentor for the entire school year, youth:
- Improved their overall academic performance
- Reduced their school infractions (skipping and dropping out)
- Were more likely to attend and finish college
- Had stronger and more consistent relationships
- Increased confidence and ability to relate to others
- Enhanced life skills decision-making, goal-setting, positive behavior and more
- Diminished likelihood of alcohol or drug use, truancy, or violence
- Broadened goals
Each school-based mentoring program is different, but most involve weekly, at-school meetings in which mentors and mentees engage in a range of nonacademic activities. These programs provide students with additional opportunities to develop their interests and allow mentors to grow from engaging with their mentee.
One of the most critical aspects to building a successful school-based mentoring program is the training and support of the mentors. Training helps to orient volunteers to the goals of the program, informs them about program rules and expectations, and gives them essential information on how to be effective youth mentors. All mentors need thorough training if they are to possess the skills, attitudes, and activity ideas needed to effectively mentor a young person.
Trained mentors feel more prepared and ready to be a mentor compared to mentors who do not receive training, which contributes to better, longer-lasting relationships with their mentees. In addition, mentees with a trained mentor have more positive outcomes than mentees with an untrained mentor.
These efforts take several forms. Most significant is training for mentors before the matches begin to meet. Pre-match mentor training should focus on the contemplation and initiation stages of mentoring, when mentors are thinking about and preparing to become a mentor. As the match progresses, mentoring program staff should provide ongoing training, and regular support for mentors and their mentees.
Mentor training does not have to be expensive or time-consuming to be effective. Building the Foundation-For School-Based Mentors is a six-lesson self-paced web-based mentor training course. Modeled after the original Building the Foundation for Community-Based Mentors, the course helps potential mentors improve their readiness to take on the role of a mentor and offers a series of reflective questions, interactive activities, and engaging videotaped scenarios, to help prospective mentors learns about their own motivations and expectations. The school-based version of the course, provides examples that are relevant for mentoring relationships that occur in a school setting.
Whether mentors are older students, retirees, business people, or community members, training is critical to helping mentors build friendships and overcome hurdles to make the most of the mentoring match. Pre-match training helps potential mentors determine if they’re ready, examine their motivations, understand their mentoring role, and prepare for meeting their mentee.
Better mentor training results in more prepared, more empowered, and more committed mentors. Better mentoring results in stronger outcomes for youth.