Mentoring/Tutoring

Overview

Mentoring has been a practiced art of developing and maintaining positive and helpful human relationships for hundreds of years, by nearly every culture, by varied individuals and groups, and in many different ways. It has survived the test of time and has been of enormous value to each mentee involved in a mentor program. It has proven to be effective with many different youth groups but has been extremely effective with youth in at-risk situations.

Mentoring is a one-to-one caring, supportive relationship between a mentor and a protégé that is based on trust. The mentor is simply a wise and trusted friend with a commitment to provide guidance and support for the mentee to develop their fullest potential based on their vision for the future. Mentoring occurs in many different formats including the traditional one-to-one relationship, a one-to-group relationship, and recently a "telementoring" relationship having multiple relationships about different topics. A checklist, Elements of Effective Practice, was developed by The National Mentoring Partnership (1991) to guide program planners with the basic elements of a mentor program. This nuts-and-bolts checklist identifies ten major components that need to be present in successful mentor programs.



 

Mentoring Is Needed

When students who have dropped out of school are asked, "Why did you drop out of school?" The typical reply is: "No one cared if I stayed in school or what!" According to The Commonwealth Fund 1998 Survey of Adults Mentoring Young People, eight of ten young people in mentoring relationships have one or more problems that put their health, development, or success in school at risk (Schargel & Smink, 2001, p. 126). The two-parent families, close-by grandparents and relatives, or the closely knit neighborhoods of years past are not as prevalent today to offer the support and guidance that youth need. Mentoring is an effective strategy for working with youth in at-risk situations and in need of role models and a positive support system (State of California Resource Center, 1999).

What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring has been a practiced art of developing and maintaining positive and helpful human relationships for hundreds of years, by nearly every culture, by varied individuals and groups, and in many different ways. It has survived the test of time and has been of enormous value to each mentee involved in a mentor program. It has proven to be effective with many different youth groups but has been extremely effective with youth in at-risk situations.

Mentoring is a one-to-one caring, supportive relationship between a mentor and a protégé that is based on trust. The mentor is simply a wise and trusted friend with a commitment to provide guidance and support for the mentee to develop their fullest potential based on their vision for the future. Mentoring occurs in many different formats including the traditional one-to-one relationship, a one-to-group relationship, and recently a "telementoring" relationship having multiple relationships about different topics.

Expected Benefits

Mentoring programs across the country are developed with many different goals and objectives; however, most programs have been designed to expect changes and benefits in the general areas of: academic achievement, employment or career preparation, social or behavior modification, family and parenting skills, and social responsibilities. With those program goals in mind it is expected to see individual or school results such as:

  • Improved school achievement;
  • Increased graduation rates;
  • Increase in self-esteem;
  • Increased school attendance;
  • Decrease in discipline referrals;
  • Decrease in early pregnancy rates;
  • Increase in securing entry-level jobs; and
  • Increase in community service activities.

Impact of Mentoring

Regardless of the format, structure, or institutional host of the program, mentoring is a community development program. Mentoring changes the structure and institutional boundaries of the community and the vision of the mentee. It serves as a powerful human force in a school, community, or state that can change the vision, health, or the economic base of the community.

Mentors have the power and influence to change the negative cycles of their mentees and their families. The impact of mentors in a well-structured mentor program is boundless and serves as a powerful low-cost, low-tech strategy to help rebuild the dreams of youth in at-risk situations. Mentoring is clearly an effective strategy for keeping students in school. Programs across the nation have an abundance of solid evidence supporting this fact. For example, the most comprehensive national research evidence is from a thorough review of Big Brother/Big Sister programs (Tierney & Grossman, 1995) showing these results:

  • 46% decrease in initiating drug use;
  • 27% decrease in initiating alcohol use;
  • 38% decrease in number of times hitting someone;
  • 37% decrease in skipped classes; and
  • 37% decrease in lying to parents.

Another nationwide study reported similar positive results from mentor programs. The Commonwealth Fund's survey (McLearn, Colasanto, and Schoen, 1998) reported the following:

  • 62% of students improved their self-esteem;
  • 52% of students skipped less school;
  • 48% of students improved their grades;
  • 49% of students got into less trouble in school;
  • 47% of students got into less trouble out of school;
  • 45% of students reduced their substance abuse; and
  • 35% of students improved family relationships.

Key Elements of Successful Mentoring Programs

Among the many components required in a structured mentor program, the most critical elements that are key to a successful program are:

  1. a clear statement of program purpose and goals;
  2. a recruitment and selection plan for mentors;
  3. a support and training program for mentors; and
  4. a monitoring and evaluation process for the program.

Designing an effective training program for mentors and developing a comprehensive evaluation process are the most difficult program components for program planners to complete. Therefore, Training Guide for Mentors (Smink, 1999) was developed and recently released by the National Dropout Prevention Center to assist program planners in training community volunteers as mentors and maintaining a support program for them. A checklist was developed by The National Mentoring Partnership (1991) to guide program planners with the basic elements of a mentor program. This nuts-and-bolts checklist identifies ten major components that need to be present in successful mentor programs. The comprehensive checklist is available on their Web site at www.mentoring.org.

Regardless of the specific program objectives, the source of mentors, or the unique target groups being served, the key to effective mentoring relationships lies in the development of a trusting relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Recent research confirms that building that trusting relationship requires time and a significant amount of effort on the part of both the mentor and mentee. In addition, Sipe (1996) reports that effective mentors are more likely to engage in the following practices:

  1. Involve youth in deciding how the pair will spend their time together;
  2. Commit to being consistent and dependable and serve in a steady presence to the mentee;
  3. Take responsibility for keeping the relationship alive;
  4. Pay attention to the protégé's need for fun as a valuable part of the relationship;
  5. Respect the protégé's viewpoint; and
  6. Seek assistance and advice from program staff when needed.

References

McLearn, K., Calasanto, D., & Schoen, C. (1998, June). Mentoring makes a difference: Findings from The Commonwealth Fund 1998 Survey of Adults Mentoring Young People.

National Mentoring Partnership. (1991). A nuts and bolts checklist for mentoring programs. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Schargel, F. P., & Smink, J. (2001). Strategies to help solve our school dropout problem. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Smink, J., & Schargel, F. P. (2004). Helping students graduate: A strategic approach to dropout prevention. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education

Smink, J. (1999). Training guide for mentors. Clemson, SC: National Dropout Prevention Center.

Tierney, J. P. & Grossman, J. B. (with Resch, N. L.). (1995). Making a difference. An impact study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters (Executive Summary). Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.

United Way of America. (1991). Mentor training curriculum. Alexandria,VA: Author.