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Part Three: Planning for Youth Board Success and Sustainability

Mentoring has always been a powerful tool for personal and professional growth—but what if we let young people shape their own mentorship paths? That's the goal of iCouldBe, a nonprofit dedicated to building student support networks through e-mentoring. The organization is empowering mentees at every stage of the mentoring process, from program creation to curriculum, with the development of its first Youth Advisory Board. We sat down with Executive Director Kate Schrauth to get her tips on how programs can embark on this transformative journey. Read parts one and two of our series with iCouldBe.

Teenage students and mentees sit in a circle having a meeting.

Budget with Clarity One of the essential steps iCouldBe took was establishing a budget before embarking on the Youth Advisory Board initiative. This budget was planned to cover various aspects including focus groups, consulting costs, and funding for staff time and internships. Kate offers a valuable piece of advice for other organizations:

"If you want to do it, do it. Don't start it and stop,” she says. “We’ve heard from other organizations that have started along this pathway, and then there's no funding. So, build the costs into your budget before you invite young people in." Kate emphasized the importance of compensating the interns who contributed to the board—a sentiment echoed by MENTOR New York Program Engagement Associate, Erica Friedman Coburn. According to Erica, paying interns goes beyond mere acknowledgment; it's a proactive move to break down barriers and cultivate a more inclusive professional environment. "When young people do this work, it's crucial to give credit where it's due, and that includes fair pay," Erica affirms. "We've seen that unpaid internships can pose hurdles for youth without financial support, which fuels a lack of opportunity and diversity in key industries."

The intentionality behind iCouldBe's approach yielded results. The organization recently secured a three-year grant that covers all its youth voice initiatives, including the launch of the Youth Advisory Board in January 2024. Plan for the Future

With funding in place, the board is gearing up for exciting prospects. Their innovative plans include exploring gamified approaches to make programming more interactive, helping to ensure content stays engaging to the youth iCouldBe serve.

“They [Youth Advisory Board members] will actually be engaged in both front-end user experience and back-end work,” Kate explains. “The coders, the creatives, all will have a place that they can be helping us continuously improve the program and be responsive to what's happening in the moment.”

Another suggested proposal is the launch of an Alumni Program. iCouldBe's mentoring platform is designed to foster developmental relationships between mentees and teachers, counselors, coaches, and other members of their community—and the Alumni Program will support them ing maintaining and growing these connections, even after high school.

“We want to make sure that we can help continue to broker relationships with people who are in careers and in those post-secondary educational institutions so that they are always growing that social capital support web,” Kate says.

Lastly, the board's future role will involve creating a team of youth ambassadors. These ambassadors will visit public schools to advocate for mentoring programs, ensuring the benefits of mentorship reach even more students.

iCouldBe’s initiative demonstrates how involving young people in the decision-making process can lead to transformative solutions and possibilities. Their mentees are not just passive beneficiaries of mentoring; they’re active leaders shaping their own paths. We'll check back in with iCouldBe and their new youth board members in 2024!

Interested in starting your own youth-led initiative? Reach out—we'd love to chat. Book a free, 30-minute consultation with our team to get started.

Kate Schrauth, Executive Director of iCouldBe's, an e-mentoring program.

Kate Schrauth is the Executive Director of iCouldBe. Her most influential mentor was a masterful community organizer who taught Kate how to see and hear the needs of the whole community. Today, Kate helps iCouldBe live its mission to help thousands of teens reach their true potential—engaging the many mentors, schools, companies, and supporters who make mentoring possible.

Erica Friedman Coburn, Mentoring Program Engagement Associate at MENTOR New York.

Erica Friedman Coburn is a Program Engagement Associate at MENTOR New York. Her career has spanned mentoring, higher education, and human resources. In these fields, she gained substantial experience with program management, educating young adults, and developing positive and productive relationships with people and organizations. She is currently based in Rochester, serving program partners in western New York.


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