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Mentoring Students and Visiting Schools
What does it mean to be a mentor? Is it being a teacher? Is it being a volunteer at an after school program or being a tutor? Mentoring can be all of these things and more, which is why young people need mentors. Mentors can help to build confidence, self-esteem, and awareness in young people, which will help them to build strong ties to their communities. Part of educating and encouraging young people to become civically engaged is getting them involved with mentors who will help them to find their place within the community and work to make sure their voices are heard. Not only is mentoring beneficial to the youth receiving the services, the mentors gain experience in leadership roles, improve organizational skills, and can also learn about teaching and learning.
II. Case Studies
“Colby Cares About Kids” (CCAK) is a volunteer mentoring program with the goal of providing a consistent, reliable adult presence in the lives of children who live in the greater Waterville area. Colby mentors act as role models, friends, and academic guides. According to the CCAK mission statement, “The role of the mentor is to help a child learn to trust others, build self-esteem, and increase the chances for academic success.”
The CCAK mentoring program was created by adults and students in an effort to assist local youth. In the fall of 2000, the Greater Waterville Communities for Children Coalition met with Colby College’s dean of students to discuss possible opportunities for Colby to become more invested in the local community. During the spring 2001 semester, one Colby class presented a final research project in which the students proposed a mentoring program between Colby College students and “at-risk” youth in the Waterville area. Because of the work of these Colby students, a community mentoring program was created.
How do you get people to act as mentors? The CCAK has been successful at selecting mentors by recruiting on the Colby College campus. The campus coordinator is responsible for spreading the word about the program and providing literature for interested students. In the first year of the program there were 300 students that showed up to learn more about the program. Of those 300, 155 were formally recruited to become mentors. In this particular program, the goal is to recruit 50 new members each year to keep the number of mentors at approximately 200. While some programs may not be this extensive the same concepts can be applied to any mentoring program.
How do you match mentors with youth counterparts? With help from school guidance counselors and teachers, mentors are selected to work with each young person based on the needs of the young person. Personality and availability of time are the key points needed to select matches for the programs.
Determine if the program should be adult-youth based or youth-youth based. Depending on the goal of the program, it may be more effective to have mainly young mentors, mainly adult mentors, or a combination of the two. If the goal of the program is to involve or educate youth in adult organizations, it may be more suitable to pair them with adults who are working in a particular field. When dealing with academics and social issues, it may be more beneficial to pair them with younger peer mentors so they form a stronger bond through shared understanding.
How are mentors trained? The Colby College Cares about Kids program has developed an effective training curriculum. The College worked with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization in Kennebec County and has also been aided by the Maine Mentoring Partnership. According to the CCAK handbook, some of the aspects to be covered in training are
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