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Tips For Mentoring Programs

Based on the research studies and experience of mentoring programs, these baker's dozen of tips for mentoring programs are offered:

1. Decide on the Type and Age of Youth Appropriate for the Program You Are Creating
Consider whether your program will be best for:

a) Elementary, middle, or high school youth
b) Youth from single-parent families
c) Youth just in need of academic assistance
d) Youth at-risk for social, academic, and behavioral problems
e) Youth with emotional and behavioral problems
f) Youth in the juvenile justice system
g) Youth with incarcerated parents

Elementary and middle school students are more likely to stay in a mentoring program than high school students. Older adolescents are less likely to be interested in having a mentor and more likely to drop out of the program. The structure of your program, including the characteristics of the mentors, type of training required, monitoring of youth, activities of the mentor-youth pairs, the need for professionals, and evaluation, will be affected by the type and age of the youth you select.

2. Think Twice Before Deciding to Include Youth with Emotional and Behavior Problems in Your Program
Volunteer mentors may not be prepared to work with youth with these problems. Youth with emotional and behavior problems are more likely to harmed by unsuccessful mentoring experiences. If you decide to include these youth, be certain to have professional ready to work with the mentor-youth pairs.

3. Consider Developing a Program for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System or for Youth Who Have Incarcerated Parents
These are youth who are at very high risk for delinquency. Effective mentoring programs can have an important impact and are most needed. Same-gender matching may be more effective in the mentoring of these youth.

4. Consider Developing a Natural Mentoring Program
A program for natural mentors could provide them with support and an opportunity to share their experiences. Natural mentors could also be used to coordinate relationships with parents, schools, community agencies, and peer groups (Rhodes & Roffman, 2003).

5. Whenever Possible, Recruit Mentors with Helping Role Experience, Such as Teachers, Social Workers, Etc.
Also, try to select adults who have successful personal relationships with others. If they are capable of successful personal relationships, they are more likely to form a successful relationship with their youth.

6. Recruit Mentors with the Free Time to Spend with their Youth and Who Can Make a Commitment of At Least One Year to the Program
Mentoring is more likely to be successful if mentors are involved with their youth and if they develop a longer relationship with them.

7. Match Mentors and Youth on Common Interests
With the possible exception of youth who are at high risk for delinquency, common interests are more important than ethnicity, race, or gender in the matching of mentors and youth.

8. Develop an Ongoing Training and Monitoring System
Mentors need continuing support. It is important to follow initial training with ongoing training and feedback sessions. Prepare them for the frustrations of mentoring, including youth who are difficult to contact, who don't keep appointments, who are disrespectful, etc. Consider forming a support group for mentors to share their experiences. Build a monitoring system into the training, so that you can track the activities and relationship of the mentoring pairs. This system will be valuable in helping to prevent and address problems in the mentoring relationship.

9. Develop an Ongoing Evaluation System
Track peer networks, school performance, arrest records, perceptions of the youth and mentors, and the social relationships of the youth, including with parents and other family members. This information can be helpful in assessing the success of your program and determining when changes are needed. Developing pro-social peer networks is the key to lasting change, especially for at-risk youth.

10. Develop Appropriate Times and Activities to Include Parents
Train mentors on communication with parents. Arrange activities for parents to be informed about the mentoring program and to participate in some appropriate activities.

11. Emphasize the Importance of Strong Mentoring Relationships
Relationships are the heart of mentoring. Successful mentoring is not possible without strong relationships. Train mentors on developing rapport and communication with youth.

12. Train Mentors on When and How to Focus on Specific Behavior Improvement
Once strong relationships have been developed, consider focusing on improving specific behaviors. The means to do so will depend on the goals of the program, the skills of the mentor, the age of the youth, etc. The use of contingency reinforcement is one possibility, especially with elementary and middle school youth.

13. Provide Training in Cultural Differences
Culture often, but not always, varies by ethnic and racial groups. For example, there are traditional cultural differences among Chinese, Japanese, Italian, African-American, Mexican, and Irish groups. Knowing some of these differences in forms of communication, styles of learning, cultural history, roles based on age, gender, or other status, etc. can be highly useful in developing strong mentoring relationships. Cultural training needs to be an important part of all mentoring training.


This web site has been produced by The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators. The web site has been made possible with the generous support of the Robert and Renee Belfer Foundation and other supporters.
The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators
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