Do you have a question about mentoring? Check here to find some answers to frequently asked questions.
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Mentoring is a committed relationship between an adult and a young person focused on providing a supportive and stable relationship for the young person. By definition, a mentor means a wise and trusted friend and guide. Mentoring, whether it is informal or formal, is a wonderful way for caring adults to make a positive difference in a young person’s life. The presence of multiple caring adults offering support, advice, friendship, reinforcement, and constructive examples proves to be a powerful tool for helping young people fulfill their potential.
A mentor may be:
- A Friend
- A Reliable Listener
- A Helper with Homework
- A Trustworthy Confidant
- A Role Model or a Coach
A mentor is NOT:
- A Parent/Guardian/Foster Parent
- A Therapist
- A Cool Peer
- A Parole Officer
- A Savior
Before becoming a mentor, here are a few things to understand about the role of mentoring. Most of us have had a teacher, supervisor, or coach who has been a mentor to us and made a positive difference in our lives. Those people wore many hats, acting as role models, cheerleaders, policy enforcers, advocates, and friends. Mentors assume these different roles during the course of a relationship and share some basic qualities:
- A sincere desire to be involved with a young person
- Respect for young people
- Active listening skills
- Ability to see solutions and opportunities
We believe both mentors and mentees benefit from the mentoring relationship. Mentors often say that they have gained just as much from the mentoring relationship as the youth they have mentored. Some of these benefits have included:
- Feeling valued
- Learning more about themselves
- improving their self-esteem and feeling they are making a difference
- Gaining a better understanding of other cultures and developing a greater appreciation for diversity
- Feeling more productive and having a better attitude at work
- Enhancing their relationships with their own children
Above all, a good mentor is willing to take the time to get to know their mentee, to learn new things that are important to the young person, and even to be changed by their relationship.
MENTOR Washington believes that mentoring, at its core, lets young people know that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and tells them they matter. Most mentoring programs have a waiting list of youth who want to be matched with a mentor. There is always a need for caring adult volunteers who want to make a difference!
Depending on the program you choose to volunteer with, the time commitment varies. Community-based programs typically ask volunteers to meet at least 6-8 hours a month for at least a year to develop the relationship. School-based programs meet on-site during the school calendar year.
Mentoring experiences come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Sometimes youth are mentored informally through a natural connection between themselves and a caring adult, like a relative, a next door neighbor, a teacher or coach, or someone through their place of worship. There are also formal mentoring opportunities where there is a connection between a caring adult and a young person through an organized, mentoring-focused program.
- One to one mentoring is the most often recognized mentoring relationship. This type of experience pairs one adult and one youth to form a friendship. An example is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.
- Group mentoring is one adult volunteer building relationships with a group of young people. This includes scouting programs.
- E-mentoring allows mentors to exchange e-mails with young people via the Internet. This type of mentoring usually involves a partnership between a business and school.
- Long-term commitment refers to a mentoring relationship that lasts a year or longer. This type of commitment is the most beneficial for a young person.
- Short-term commitment refers to a relationship that lasts less than a year.
Find a mentoring program near you by searching on the Mentoring Connector. The Mentoring Connector is a free service that helps quality youth mentoring programs across the country recruit more local volunteers while greatly increasing visibility for their organizations. Through the Mentoring Connector, you can search for mentoring opportunities by zip code, ages of youth served, and program type to find and contact a program that interests you.
Valuable research suggests that quality mentoring programs implement nationally recognized best practice standards based on research, experience, and evidence of positive outcomes. Read more about how MENTOR Minnesota supports quality mentoring.