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Training Takeaways: Design and Manage a Youth Mentorship Program

The Training Takeaways Series highlights key points from recent MENTOR NY training workshops.

In a February training session, MENTOR New York Program Services Associate Naomi Rodriguez introduced research-informed standards for creating and sustaining a quality youth mentoring program. Workshop participants explored six key areas to ensure the safety and effectiveness of mentoring relationships, from mentor recruitment and screening practices to relationship monitoring and closure. If you're wondering how you can apply the evidence-based recommendations outlined in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ within your program, here are four top tips shared during the workshop:

1. Leverage the advice that's most relevant to you.

The recommendations offered represent the top research-informed practices for effective program delivery, but you may find that some suggestions are not relevant to or achievable within your mentoring initiative. Gather your team together and ask the following questions:

  • What would we need to change for our program to meet a particular benchmark?

  • Would a particular enhancement add value to our program and increase participant safety?

  • How much effort would go into changing a practice? Is that feasible, or even desirable, within our program?

  • If we are unable to meet a benchmark or implement a change, how would we justify this to a stakeholder in our program?

Establishing clear, realistic goals and objectives — from who your program will serve to what mentoring model it follows — will help you structure your efforts. If you don't already have a Mission Statement, create one that defines the overall purpose of your program and what you hope it will achieve.

2. Remember, recruiting is about relationship building.

When defining your audience (your ideal mentors and mentees) and exploring recruitment strategies, remember that if you want someone to have a relationship with your program, you need to build a relationship with them. Research indicates that volunteerism increases when people are asked to participate in an activity by someone they know — and they're four times more likely to do something if there's a personal ask. Whether you're just starting a mentoring program or are looking to boost the number of mentors/mentees in an existing initiative, consider the following:

  • How can you draw on your current relationships?

  • How can mentors and mentees be involved in your recruitment efforts?

When making the ask:

  • Be direct

  • Address a specific audience

  • Highlight expectations and availability

  • Use visuals

  • Keep it simple

3. Know when and how to communicate relationship closure.

Goodbyes can be tough. One-third to half of all mentoring relationships end prematurely, and it's important that programs help their participants to end things in a healthy, productive way.

Match closure should be discussed at every stage of the mentoring relationship, including orientation, pre-match training, and ongoing support meetings. When a match comes to an end, the process should be unsurprising and structured. We recommend implementing the following closure activities to ensure the best outcomes:

  1. Conduct individual closure meetings with mentors and mentees, allowing them to express how they feel about the relationship ending.

  2. Ask mentors and mentees to complete a closure interview form.

  3. Document the match closure using a Termination Agreement and Conducted Contact Agreement.

  4. Facilitate a final match meeting to help participants reflect on and celebrate their mentoring relationship.

4. Be aware of all the components that go into a mentoring program.

Building a successful mentoring program can be challenging. Factors to keep in mind when establishing and overseeing your mentoring initiative include mentor recruitment and training, day-to-day operations, marketing efforts and fundraising, data collection and tracking, and the actual mentoring process. Would you like to implement these and other research-based best practices within your mentoring program? Reach out to Naomi or another member of our team to learn how you can get started.

About the Workshop Facilitator

MENTOR New York's team includes experienced trainers with expertise in youth development, mentoring, program operations, and more.

Naomi plays a major role in developing and implementing processes to ensure services are delivered effectively to mentoring programs. Prior to joining MENTOR New York, she gained experience in program development and implementing evidence-based practices for various populations at nonprofits throughout Long Island. For Naomi, helping organizations build intentional relationships that facilitate growth for young people is the most rewarding part of her work. She graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology, concentrating in Human Services.


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