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March 4, 2024

5 Tips for Starting a Youth Mentoring Program in Your School

This morning, my daughter, a freshman in a large urban school district, prepared for a field trip. But her Freshman Foundations class wasn’t heading to a traditional field trip site like a performance, museum, or planetarium. Instead, she and her class were taking a trip to a local business to meet their mentors. After weeks of email correspondence, the students were visiting their mentors in person, to strengthen their connection and explore potential career paths.

Mentoring programs are increasingly popular in schools across the country…with good reason! The nonprofit MENTOR describes the powerful impact this relationship can have, “Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations.”

The data from MENTOR on the benefits of mentor relationships for young people is compelling:

  • Students who meet regularly with their mentors are:
    • 52% less likely to skip a day of school, and 37% less likely to skip a class, than peers without mentors. 
    • 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)
  • Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are:
    • 55% more likely to enroll in college than those who did not have a mentor.
    • 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not. (The Mentoring Effect Report)
  • Across all student groups, youth with mentors experience a reduction in symptoms of depression. (The Role of Risk study)

As the data reveals, mentoring can make a positive difference for many challenges our students face today, including high chronic absence rates, mental health challenges, and loss of connection. Interested in learning more about launching or enhancing a mentoring program in your school community? Check out our Top 5 Tips, below, and explore the linked resources to get started!

Top 5 Tips for Starting a Mentoring Program

  1. Assess Community Needs and Resources:
    • Understand the specific needs of your school community. Identify students who would benefit most from mentoring, especially those at risk.
    • Collaborate with existing programs or organizations that share a similar mission. Leverage local resources and partnerships to enhance your program’s impact.
  2. Develop Program Guidelines:
    • Clearly define the goals and expectations of your mentoring program. Consider the age group, frequency of meetings, and duration of mentor-mentee relationships.
    • Develop a written statement outlining eligibility requirements for both mentors and mentees. Communicate these guidelines to all stakeholders.
    • Match mentors and mentees thoughtfully, considering factors such as interests, personalities, and academic or career aspirations. A good match fosters a strong and meaningful relationship.
  3. Recruit and Screen Mentors:
    • Recruit mentors from both internal school staff and external volunteers. Encourage teachers and school staff to participate as mentors.
    • Develop materials for families, explaining the benefits of mentoring and obtaining informed permission for student involvement.
    • Follow evidence-based practices for mentor and mentee screening, ensuring a safe and supportive environment.
  4. Provide Training and Support:
    • Train mentors on effective communication, active listening, cultural competency, and building positive relationships with students.
    • Offer ongoing support and professional development for mentors. Recognize their efforts and provide additional training as needed.
    • Consider developing a structured curriculum or activities to guide mentor-mentee interactions.
  5. Evaluate and Adjust:
    • Regularly assess the program’s impact and adjust as needed. Collect feedback from mentors, mentees, and other stakeholders.
    • Monitor attendance, academic progress, and social-emotional development to measure success.

Remember that successful mentoring programs are flexible, adaptable, and focused on the well-being of both mentors and mentees. By following these recommendations, you can create a meaningful and impactful youth mentoring program in your school! 

Explore the resources below to learn more!


About the Author

Sarah Murphy is the Evaluation Manager and a Professional Learning Specialist at Teaching Channel. She holds a B.A. in History and a Master’s in Education. Sarah began teaching in 2004 at the elementary level. She now leads Teaching Channel’s Evaluation Team, managing our wonderful team of Course Evaluators. Sarah is also a coursewriter and content creator, specializing in edtech, educator wellness, and content area teaching.

Fun fact: Sarah has camped in 18 national parks and hopes to visit all 63 someday!

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