What Is Mentoring?
Mentoring is a powerful and joyful way to make a positive impact on the life of a young person and the future of a community.
For so many of us, our personal relationships are the number one thing that affects our lives – helping us through the bad times, bringing us joy, and laying the course for what comes next in our lives. We search for people who will stand with us – not lead us or tell us where to go – but be there for us and bring out our personal best. And we search for role models – people whose lives and actions match what we envision for our own futures. Structured mentoring programs make it easier for many of us to find those people and develop those relationships.
It’s no surprise, then, that decades of research has shown the real impact of high-quality mentoring programs.
Research* shows that high-quality mentoring programs can…
Reduce youth depression and improve youth self-confidence
Improve youth performance, behavior, and attendance in school
Reduce drug and alcohol use and violent behavior
Improve youth communication skills and relationships, including at school, home, and the workplace
How do we define mentoring?
There are a lot of ways to define mentoring, and there are a lot of different types of mentoring programs and relationships that can work. But there are a few things that we look for in all of the programs that we serve:
A time commitment from mentors and mentees
One thing is clear from all of the research on mentoring relationships -- whether those relationships are through a structured program or are naturally occurring: relationships take time to develop, and the mentoring relationships that have the biggest impact are those that last long enough and include enough points of contact. We encourage all programs to meet research-based best practices by having mentors and mentees commit to spending an average of an hour of week (or four hours per month) together for at least one year.
Relationship development as a primary goal of the program
We encourage programs to focus on the importance of building a strong relationship between the mentor and the mentee. You may have many other goals for your program and the youth it serves, but if you want your program to be a mentoring program, make sure that a strong relationship is at least one of the primary goals, in and of itself. This is how you will see mentoring work its magic and contribute to the achievement of other program goals.
1. Herrera, DuBois and Grossman, The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles, 2013
2. US Department of Education, Making the Grade: A Guide to Incorporating Academic Achievement into Mentoring Programs and Relationships, 2005
3. Child Trends, Mentoring: A Promising Strategy for Youth Development, 2002