A mentor is a trusted non-parental adult friend with a long-term commitment to provide consistent guidance and support to a youth. Most mentoring programs ask mentors to commit to a full school or calendar year or more. Formal mentoring programs follow the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring 4th Edition and provide professional support for the relationships between mentors and youth (mentees) and developing the character and capabilities of each young person.
The form of mentoring a young person differs from program to program and from person to person. In many programs, mentors meet with youth one-to-one in the community at places of their mutual choosing, others meet one-to-one in the youth’s school or community clubhouse, while others meet for lunch in the school cafeteria. In some forms, a few mentors meet regularly with a small group of young people. In others, a mentor meets once a month in person and weekly via monitored email (e-mentoring).
The two things that all formal mentoring programs recognized by MWW have in common is that they: 1) screen all mentor volunteers and 2) train them to ensure youth safety and provide the support needed to ensure an effective and healthy relationship.
The Value of Mentoring
At its most basic level, mentoring helps because it guarantees a young person that there is non-family member who cares about them. A child is not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges.
Think back. Did you know how to deal with that bully in grade school? Did you know how to study for a test or make plans for college? Do you remember wanting your first car or looking for a part-time job? Simple things that seem easy or straightforward to you now may appear to be a complete mystery to a young person. Mentors provide their mentees with an experienced friend who is there to help in any number of situations.
Support for education
- Mentors help keep students in school.
- Mentors engage students in interesting activities that are related to reduced symptoms of depression.
- Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters).
- Mentors help with homework and can improve their mentees’ academic skills.
Support with day-to-day living
- Mentors help improve a young person's self-esteem.
- Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters).
- About 40% of a teenager's waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision. Mentors provide teens with a valuable place to spend free time.
- Mentors teach young people how to relate well to all kinds of people and help them strengthen communication skills.
Support in the workplace
- Mentors help young people set career goals and start taking steps to realize them.
- Mentors can use their personal contacts to help young people meet industry professionals, find internships and locate job possibilities.
- Mentors introduce young people to professional resources and organizations they may not know.
- Mentors can help their mentees learn how to seek and keep jobs.