The Intervention

Youth mentoring is an intervention where youth build positive relationships with non-parental persons, typically older than the identified student. Mentorship programs can take a variety of different forms from academic mentorship to building positive community relationships to college and career mentorship. Mentorship programs can be built to best serve the needs of your students and augmented to fit the developmental stage of the students with whom you work. Students who participate in mentorship programs often experience improvements in school functioning, physical and mental health, cognitive, and social outcomes.

Any responsible, committed, non-parental adult can be a mentor to a student. Mentors may be school staff, community volunteers, coaches, spiritual leaders etc. Mentoring programs may also involve older students mentoring younger students.

Below we describe the steps to setting up a mentoring program; however, you may also follow many of these steps if you want to develop a mentoring intervention for an individual student.

Step 1: Recruitment

1. Recruit Mentors

· It is important to set realistic expectations about what mentoring looks like and what it can achieve.

· Depending on the goals of your mentoring program, you can target recruitment towards relevant adults. For example, if you are hoping your students build community support networks, you may recruit members of the community. If your goals are focused on academic engagement, you may want to recruit qualified peer or adults from within the school.

· Define if you are looking for short- or long-term mentors for students and what population of students are participating in your program. Ensure that you have defined the time commitment of the mentors. Time is one of the biggest barriers to mentorship commitment, so ensuring the time commitment is clear at the start is crucial. It may be beneficial to think creatively about ways to enhance mentorship capacity by using virtual mentorship.

· If partnering with already established mentorship programs (e.g., Big Brother Big Sisters, AmeriCorps, Community in Schools. etc.), it will be important to establish expectations specific to your goals with these partnership organizations.

2. Engage students and if possible, their parents/guardians.

· Distribute information about the mentoring program to students and parents. Include the program’s goals, time commitments, and possible benefits to students.

· Develop an enrollment process that includes the student and their family’s expectations about the mentoring relationship (e.g., What do they want out of it?). If their expectations do not match what the program can offer, make sure the student and their family understand what the program can realistically accomplish. Their expectations may also inform new aspects you can bring to your own program.

Step 2: Screening

1. Mentor criteria

· Identify criteria for your mentors. Make clear the skills needed to be an effective mentor given the specific needs of your program.

· Conduct face-to-face interviews with mentors if they are from outside the school.

· If community volunteers, proceed with your school or district policies for background checks etc.

· Have prospective mentors sign a contract that outlines their time commitment and expectations. See example mentorship contract.

2. Mentee criteria

· Identify criteria for your mentees.

· Have parents/guardians sign a permission form for their student to participate if they will be engaging with community volunteers or programming outside of school hours.

· Have prospective mentees and their parents/guardians sign a contract that outlines their time commitment and expectations.

Step 3: Training

· Hold an orientation and training for mentors before the program starts. This will cover topics like how to build and maintain appropriate mentor/mentee relationships, identifying the needs of students, ethical and safety issues that may arise, how to develop relationships with the mentee’s family, challenges of with mentorship or specific challenges that may be relevant to the population of students you are working with.

· If the program requires specific content, these trainings can discuss modules or content that must be covered in the program.

· Risk management topics like appropriate physical contact, approved activities, mandatory reporting, online contact and social media use, money spent on mentee activities, and emergency situations should also be covered.

· This training can also provide mentors with resources to support them during their mentorship. This may be personal contacts with program leaders or experienced mentors, handouts, or online repositories of documents.

Step 4: Matching mentors and mentees and initiating contact.

· It is important to consider personal characteristics of the mentor and mentee (e.g., age, race, proximity, gender, personality, goals) when making mentorship matches.

· Leaders of the program should be present for this initial meeting to help facilitate.

· This first meeting should involve discussing program expectations, commitments, and goals with the mentor and mentee together. The mentee’s parents/guardians may also be present at this meeting depending on the nature of the program.

Step 5: Monitoring and supporting the mentorship process.

· It is necessary to contact both the mentor and mentee to check-in about their participation and progress. Best practices suggest twice per month contact with both the mentor and mentee during the first month of the program and then at least once per month after that.

· It is also best practice to check-in with a parent, guardian, or teacher of the student at least twice in the first month of mentorship and at least once per month after that.

· Ensure mentor and mentee contact and meetings are documented. You may want to have a paper or online documentation form. See example. If mentors are not meeting at minimum frequency as defined by the program, it will be necessary to meet with the mentor to help address any barriers to meeting with their mentee and make a plan to re-engage their mentee.

· Continue to provide resources to all mentors to address any challenges or questions they may face.

· It may be valuable to assess the progress and quality of the mentorship relationship using surveys. There have been many surveys developed for this purpose

· Recognize mentors for their hard work! Whether it is handwritten thank you notes or an end of the year celebration, this can help with mentorship satisfaction and retention.

Step 6: Closure of the mentorship relationship

· Closure of the mentorship relationship may happen expectedly (e.g., student graduates, program is only one year long) or unexpectedly (e.g., mentor moves, student or mentor decides to leave the program.). Ensure your program has a written policy for both of these types of closures.

· Ideally, have a planned final meeting where both mentor and mentee can seek closure. In this meeting, both can discuss reasons for the closure (if relevant), their feelings about the closure of their relationship, and benefits derived from the experience.

· Solicit feedback from both the mentor and mentee at the end of the mentorship relationship.

· Create and review rules of post-closure contact between mentor and mentee.

· Plan for rematching the mentee if necessary.

· Transition to middle or high school

· College application process and the transition to college

· Career mentorship

· Community mentorship programs (e.g., Big Brothers Big Sisters)

· Leadership programs

· Check and Connect

Depending on the nature of the mentorship relationship, it may be beneficial to include mentors in Student Support Team meetings in which their mentee is being discussed in order to promote a whole child approach.