Mentoring for Academic, Emotional, and Social Success

September 30th, 2016

October marks the start of the mentoring component of our after-school programs, and we are excited to welcome a great group of volunteers who commit to meet one-on-one with a student once a week for at least a semester. That group includes middle and high school students in P2LAYS (Paul’s Place Leaders and Young Scholars) who mentor elementary students. Mentors help students with their homework and tutor them, but we’ve found that our volunteer and high school students are also guiding students through life, imparting study habits, and being a listening ear. Four years ago, we made a conscious decision to change the name of this volunteer role from tutor to mentor to reflect the full scope of the position, and we began engaging middle school students who have strong academic and emotional skills as mentors.

Mentoring is an important part of our after-school programs because it gives students confidence and support they need to succeed in school and life – both the students being mentored and the students in mentor roles. Our goal is to provide our students with mentors who can give the one-on-one guidance to help them reach their full potential, and we have been guided by an evidence-based model from the National Mentoring Partnership called the Elements of Effective Practice. Last year, 100% of the after-school students reported that their mentor had good ideas to help them solve problems.

This year, we will be using an additional evidence-based assessment – the Developmental Assets Profiles – which assesses the students’ internal strengths and external supports as well as growth in these key areas. The assessment measures students’ commitment to learning, positive values, constructive use of time, and empowerment as well as their positive identity. This tool will help us identify specific areas in which individual students need extra support and set goals for each student. We expect this to add more direction and value to the mentoring experience. We hear from the mentees that when the mentor shows up consistently and meets them where they are emotionally, academically or socially, they have meaningful experience – and our use of evidence-based assessments helps them create that meaningful experience.

Our middle and high school students benefit from being paired with an adult mentor and have the opportunity to gain job skills by applying to be a mentor. Students apply by submitting report cards and an essay on the following topics: what it means to be a mentor, what skills they have to be a mentor, and what lessons they hope to learn from the experience. Student mentors earn a stipend for mentoring up to three times a week and are expected to meet the commitment to be there on their assigned day.

Many treat this as their job. A new student to our after school program wrote “I want to be a mentor because it will be my first job. I’ll get experience to be prepared for my next job.” Another student has expressed how mentoring will allow him to earn money and “start to learn how to be independent.” Others have expressed that it will boost their resumes for college applications.

The money may be in incentive, but the student mentors also realize the impact mentoring has on their own future as well as the future of their mentee. A middle school boy wrote how, this year, he wants to be a better mentor because he joked around a lot, that when his mentee was struggling, he did not have much input. He often sought the help of the staff, and we worked with him to improve their relationship. “This year, I want to do more things with my mentee so we have a stronger relationship.” Lastly, one of the new sixth grade mentors said it best about being a mentor: “it shows that we can make a positive impact on the Paul’s Place community.” And we couldn’t agree more!

By Christan Morley, Director of Children and Youth Programs